An update letter from Fr Alex
5th July 2021
"Saludos" from Arequipa, Peru. I hope this finds you well.
First of all sorry for not writing sooner, but over here in our area COVID is killing a lot of people and we are keeping very busy trying to save lives as much as possible and support in many ways those still surviving. Just to give you an idea, we have an average of 50 deaths every 24 hours, and that is people dying in the 2 hospitals in Arequipa, not counting people dying at home. This is the worst time here in Arequipa since the very beginning of the pandemic.
So thank you for your support towards our mission. Thanks to your generosity and that of other generous people like yourselves we can look towards the future with hope. There is so much going on in the mission and as the needs are many, and more so with the present pandemic.
In the mission we have various activities that are directed to uplift the livelihood of our people. I run a small secondary school for 300 students who come from poor backgrounds. Then there is the food program. Before the pandemic we used to serve about 400 people but now due to the pandemic we have expanded the program and are reaching around 2,000 people every day from Monday to Friday every day. This is done through a chain of 18 kitchens that we have set up. Besides preparing food in the kitchens we regularly distribute food hampers to those who cannot access the kitchens. We are distributing around 200 food hampers every 15 days. Then I have what we call the "Compassion Fund". This fund is set up to help people in their various needs and for which we as a mission do not have a specific formal program. This includes paying for education, medical bills, basic infrastructure for poor people, buying pots and pans, starting small businesses, paying services bills, and a long list of other situations in which poor people need a helping hand. This may include picking and burying people living alone or paying for funerals, etc.
Another important activity in the mission is the legal office. Thanks to this office we can protect the rights of poor people who otherwise are excluded. In this office we defend the rights and ownership of the land, women’s, and children's rights especially in cases of single mothers and give education on people's rights and duties.
Besides all this we are also very involved in training people especially women in developing abilities to start income generating initiatives. We want people to stand on their own feet moving on and not depend on the mission. For this reason, we organize different training programs that include production, management, and marketing skills.
Then there is also our mission's involvement in health. This year we are celebrating 20 years since we started a small health clinic which grew by time as the most important health centre in the area. We started in one very humble room, with a nurse, and a doctor and today we are attending over 30,000 patients a year. This is complemented by outreaches to the far-out settlements thanks to a mobile clinic we operate. Also, we have a group of people whom we call "Well-being Promoters". This group is made of people selected from the different settlements and whom we have trained in different skills including health. One good example is the fight against anemia which is still a big issue in our settlements due to inadequate nutrition especially with pregnant women and the first years of childhood. We have improved the situation thanks to instruction to groups of women helping them to prepare nutritional and non-expensive healthy food. The group also teaches about prevention in various issues such as hygiene, accident prevention and first response in cases of emergencies. We are very proud of this group since most of the people in this group could hardly read and write, but we saw their energy and leadership qualities and today they are community leaders.
At present we are looking forward to building a new clinic to replace the present one since it has become too small to cope with the demand. We have the land, the personal, the equipment and the plans, but we still lack the funding, and as one can imagine such projects are expensive.
Once again thank you for your kind generosity and please know that you and your loved ones are always in our prayers. We have daily prayers for our benefactors and are so grateful for all their support towards the needy we serve every day.
Blessings and take care.