Providing Humanitarian Relief During Disasters

Publication Date: 
April 10, 2015

The stories rarely, if ever, make the headlines: news of natural disasters in remote and impoverished communities far from the orbit of entertainment-thirsty attention.  And yet -- whenever and wherever catastrophe strikes -- our Salesian missionaries are among the first to respond.

“After a fall, the wisdom of a man lies in his feet,” says Father Giovanni Corselli, rector of Bemaneviky parish in Madagascar -- recalling a local proverb that aptly describes the Salesian response in the wake of a devastating cyclone. In January, this week-long storm -- named Chedza -- pummeled the island with non-stop rains, creating a massive deluge that wiped out the rice paddies and corn fields upon which residents depend.

Additionally, secondary mudslides leveled houses, blocked major roads, and contaminated wells. Close to 53,000 people are homeless and face a severe famine if the crops can’t be restored. The threat of widespread disease, especially typhoid, is very real in the absence of clean drinking water.

“Every family has been put to the test,” says Fr. Corselli. “And the poor and the weak have suffered most. This is why we immediately mobilized to assist in humanitarian relief efforts.”

In addition to distributing food, medicine, fresh water and clothing, Salesian missionaries on the ground are assessing how to best lead the long, slow process of complete recovery. “We will help mend roofs and repair walls, of course,” says Fr. Corselli. “But the big challenge will be to address the massive loss of crops. When fields are flooded, you really need to start over again. With faith, we will persevere.”

Similarly in March -- an entire continent and ocean away -- heavy rains triggered violent mudslides that crashed through the community of Chosica, Peru. Now under a state of emergency, this small town just northeast of the capital city of Lima is struggling to cope with the levels of destruction that swept homes, cars and even animals away.

“While Don Bosco Church in Chosica was heavily damaged, we are much more concerned about our parishioners there -- all of whom have literally lost everything,” says Father Alejandro Arango Ramos, Vice Provincial of the Salesian Province in Peru.

In order to address such massive loss, the Don Bosco Foundation in Peru is leading a relief campaign -- collecting food, clothing, mattresses and many other generously donated items, and distributing them directly to victims. At the same time, youth in several unaffected parishes have begun collecting funds to help cover relief efforts.

“Because Salesian missionaries live within the communities they serve, they are perfectly positioned to respond in times of crisis,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “Even when we don’t hear about it in the news, our missionaries are there -- and will remain throughout the long recovery process that accompanies disasters like this. It is through the caring generosity of our many friends that this is possible.”

Our mission brings relief, and hope, in times of disaster and crisis. We invite you to join us by making our mission, your mission. Find your mission today.

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