(MissionNewswire) Children, the elderly and those living in poverty within the Salesian Diocese of Estelí, the third largest city in Nicaragua, have access to better nutrition thanks to an ongoing partnership between Salesian Missions and Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit Christian organization committed to, “feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit.”
The partnership has resulted in a donation of rice-meals that has benefitted more than 20,000 people in Estelí, including students in Salesian schools and those living within poor communities. The majority of beneficiaries have few resources and live in extreme poverty. The donated rice-meals provided to Salesian schools are given to students during the school day as part of a free lunch program begun by Salesian missionaries to meet the needs of the many area families with limited resources to feed their children. The meals ensure students receive proper nutrition and a balanced diet, helping them to focus on their studies and extracurricular activities.
Salesian missionaries and volunteers also distributed donated rice-meals to families in need through community outreach efforts and at local churches. The food aid helped elderly residents receive proper nutrition and aided in improving their strength, health and mental wellbeing. Food aid was also delivered directly to families at home to ensure that children receive more than just the one meal offered at school.
“Many of those participating in Salesian programs in Nicaragua are malnourished,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “For students, this donated food not only encourages them to attend school, it allows them to focus on getting the education they need without worrying about where their next meal will come from. Children cannot learn on an empty stomach.”
The ongoing partnership between Salesian Missions and Feed My Starving Children has resulted in 40-foot containers of fortified rice-meals being shipped to Salesian sites around the globe. Feed My Starving Children provides the food and Salesian Missions takes care of the cost and logistics of shipping each container from Feed My Starving Children warehouses to the destination country. Salesian Missions also works to help identify where the greatest needs are at any given time. The partnership began in early 2006 when the first 40-foot container was donated to and shipped by Salesian Missions for programs in Sri Lanka. Through the years, as Salesian Missions has determined beneficiaries in need of Feed My Starving Children food, almost 100 containers of more than 27 million meals have been donated, shipped and received by those in need in more than 25 countries.
“Salesian missionaries are an integral part of the existing infrastructure in many countries and Salesian Missions plays an important role in making sure aid from the United States reaches its destination country and gets into the hands of those who need it most,” adds. Fr Hyde. “Youth who access Salesian programs in Nicaragua are given an educational foundation, technical skills training and life and social skills to help them excel in the workforce. They are then able to break the cycle of poverty and become contributing members of their communities.”
Nicaragua is one of the least developed and poorest countries in Latin America, second only to Haiti, with more than 42 percent of its residents living in poverty, according to the World Bank. Poverty, although declining steadily in recent years, remains high. More than 80 percent of Nicaragua’s poor live in remote rural communities where access to basic services is a daily challenge.
After decades of political instability and vulnerability to natural hazards, the country has achieved a remarkable economic turnaround and is now focusing on innovative ways of reducing poverty. However, years of widespread poverty have taken their toll and many residents suffer from poor health conditions including HIV/AIDS. In addition, crime, violence against women, gang violence and high unemployment result in challenging economic and social conditions, particularly for young people and women.
World Bank – Nicaragua