The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the poor worldwide in unprecedented ways. The people in many countries are suffering because of pre-existing vulnerabilities such as: lack of access to basic services; vulnerable livelihoods; and poor sanitary conditions. Health facilities and government programs are overwhelmed. There are no safety nets for the poor, no food stamps, and no unemployment compensation. The poor are trying to survive during the stay-at-home orders. Even with some countries opening their businesses, many have lost their jobs and the ability to feed their families. Today, the Franciscan missionaries are feeding the poor worldwide.
In South America the Demand is Overwhelming
Our Franciscan missionaries are serving the poor in many countries around the world. They have few resources at their disposal to battle the effects of this pandemic. We have received about 20 emergency relief requests for financial assistance. Our missionaries need to purchase more food for the increasing number of people seeking aid. We expect to receive more requests in the near future. So far, we have sent over $300,000 in emergency food grants to our missionaries feeding the poor worldwide, and we expect this number to increase significantly. These emergency grants were not in our budget, but in times of crisis, we must respond because lives are at stake!
Hunger is the Greatest Health Issue
In countries like Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and the Pacific coast of Colombia the poor are bearing the greatest impact of the pandemic. Before the stay-at-home orders, many of these informal workers were day laborers. They earned what little money they could, or they begged on the streets to be able to buy a little food. During this crisis, they can no longer work or even beg on the streets, so their families are going hungry. To survive, many people are coming to our missions for food because they have no other options. Here are just a few examples of the recent emergency requests we have received from our missionaries because of this global crisis.
Suffering in Brazil
Father Jose Francisco dos Santos, OFM and the other friars from the Province of Sao Paulo in Brazil are feeding 5,000 people a day! It is an overwhelming number. In the center of Sao Paulo, before the pandemic, the friars were feeding several hundred homeless people a day at what became known as the “Priests Tea.” But after the virus struck and a shutdown occurred, the daily number of people swelled to about 5,000, forcing our missionary friars to set up another distribution center known as the “The Franciscan Tent.” Can you imagine the additional costs of going from feeding a few hundred people every day to 5,000 a day! According to Fr. Santos, most of the people coming for food have recently lost their jobs due to the government shutdown.
Pain in Peru
The Franciscan friars of the Province of Doce Apostoles in Peru are also overwhelmed with the increased number of people coming to their door for food assistance. Father Nicholas Nieves, OFM and the other Franciscan missionaries have been serving poor refugees who fled their rural homes because of armed conflicts in the Peruvian Highlands. Now they live in makeshift villages and make a living selling trinkets so they can survive day by day. The Franciscans have operated a soup kitchen for the elderly for years, but with the government shutdown, many other people have lost their meager incomes. The friars are being overwhelmed with families seeking food assistance.
Our Brothers and Sisters Need Your Support
These are just two examples from South America, which is now getting hit hard by the virus. Our missionary friars are also feeding the poor during the pandemic in India, the Philippines, Kenya, and many other countries. These efforts are carried out under tremendous pressure. Everything possible is being done to protect the health and well-being of all involved. But we simply cannot stop providing food to people in desperate need of our help.
You always respond to the suffering of others with love and compassion. Through your generosity to our Franciscan missionaries, you have helped ease the pain and hunger of poor, vulnerable people in missions around the world. Today we need your help more than ever to get us through this worldwide pandemic.
We are asking you, once again, for your support. Maybe you have already responded to our previous appeal regarding the pandemic. If so, thank you. If you have yet to respond, please help us reach out to thousands of our sisters and brothers now unable to feed themselves or their families.
We urgently need your help to ensure that our Franciscan missionaries have the resources needed to help the poor survive this pandemic. These emergency demands are straining are already tight budget! Together with your support we will continue to provide urgent humanitarian aid so our missionaries may continue feeding the poor worldwide.
Together is the only way we will get through this.
Brother Andrew Brophy, OFM
P.S. Franciscan missionaries are often the last, best hope for people struggling to survive the hardships of daily life. Please offer your best gift today and help us provide food to poor families, children, and the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you in advance for your renewed support and prayers.