Right now in Madrid, Spain, our missionaries are providing hot meals to more than 50 girls and boys attending programs at a Salesian center in the city. Hit particularly hard by the economic decline, these children’s families are struggling to meet basic financial demands -- and are having to make the impossible choice between paying the rent, or feeding their families.
For many of these 50 girls and boys, the meal they receive from the Salesian missionaries is the only one they will eat all day. And they are not alone.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, approximately 425 million youth around the globe suffer from undernourishment. Plagued by gnawing hunger, these impoverished boys and girls suffer from constant headaches, stomach pains and worse. Those who are fortunate enough to attend school often can’t concentrate -- which negatively affects their ability to learn. And the cycle of poverty continues.
This is why Salesian Missions is committed to developing and maintaining vital partnerships with key organizations, to deliver food to those who need it most -- with a special focus on school children.
“Meal programs for youth in Salesian schools, whose families cannot afford to feed them, are integral to the success of our students and their ability to gain an education,” says Jessica O’Connor, property and logistics officer at the Salesian Missions Office for International Programs.
In addition to the students in Madrid, Salesian missionaries are feeding tens of thousands of hungry children in impoverished communities around the globe, thanks to partners like Stop Hunger Now, which provides the life-saving meals.
In Fatumaca, East Timor, for example -- where many youth must walk hours each day just to get to Salesian primary, secondary and vocational schools -- a free breakfast program means that students now start their days with a nutritious meal instead of an empty stomach. Since its implementation almost a year ago, the program has significantly improved the overall health, physical appearance and academic performance of participating youth. Graduation rates across all levels now approach 100%.
In Haiti, close to 1,000 students attending three Salesian schools receive a daily fortified meal on-site. Not only do these meals improve students’ attention and ability to learn, they also serve as an incentive for families to send their children to school. Both are especially important in a country that remains one of the poorest in the world, despite the encouraging progress being made in the wake of a devastating earthquake in 2010.
“The meals that children receive at our schools may be their only meals,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “This food not only encourages them to attend school, it allows them to get the education they need because -- as children in Haiti say -- ‘an empty stomach has no ears.’”
Our mission fills the empty stomachs of vulnerable children in more than 130 countries around the globe -- giving them a crucial head start in school and hope for a future free of poverty. What’s your mission?