CHILE,Fr. Francisco Pereira, Jorge Gómez Alemparte / María Fischer •
The Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) joins the efforts and actions against all forms of violence against children. This is message was expressed on June 4th, the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. “Our children need tenderness and protection at all times, for they are the hope of society, the Church and humanity”. What does Schoenstatt do to protect children? The answer is not only education for children or schools and all kinds of strengthening of families, but the answer is called Dequeni, Casa del Niño, Casa Madre de Tuparenda, Hogar de María, Niño Jesús Nutrition Center, and it is especially called María Ayuda. Mary helps the Christ who suffers today, who suffers in abandoned, abused, mistreated, and marginalized children. Maria Ayuda, Mary helps since nearly 40 years ago. —
Bishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, president of CELAM, encourages believers to continue fighting and working for a world that is more and more humane, in solidarity and justice for children. He also reminds us that a society that abandons children is condemned to failure and many of them live in an environment that not only exposes them to death, but in most cases leaves them injured or with emotional traumas that will haunt them for the rest of their days.
In the current crisis, Maria Ayuda´s work does not stop. On the contrary, where the need is aggravated, solidarity, if it is authentic, grows even more. From Maria Ayuda, Father Francisco Pereira, spiritual director, and Jorge Gomez Alemparte, commercial director, share with the readers of Schoenstatt.org what is being done during these weeks and where the current challenges are in this health crisis that is already becoming a socioeconomic crisis.
Is co-responsibility in solidarity lacking in Chile?
If this very serious health crisis that we are experiencing is not assumed with personal responsibility and in solidarity with others, we will head as a country towards a situation that no one can even imagine. The authorities repeat it ad nauseam; the State does not have the tools to control a whole population to comply with the restrictions requested for this time. The facts prove it. The only way out then is self-responsibility and self-awareness. Is that possible? Many people think that our country has not been educated in the value of joint responsibility, and this is expressed in a great many things in daily life. It is enough to go out to the streets and see how we throw away our garbage without the slightest feeling of doing something not inappropriate, or how is that we do not respect our neighbor by making really loud noises. Solidarity with your environment and people is then something inherent in the culture of a community. Whoever does not want to understand this is condemned to be part of those who will live destroying the environment and not building it and caring for it. What is behind such attitudes? An individualistic and often anarchic concept of life. And it comes about through a chain of disillusionment, of unfulfilled promises, of feeling in the end that you are not worth it, that you are not seen, that you are nobody.
Behind every child at the house is a family with serious material needs
This health crisis, as we know, has already begun to have serious socio-economic consequences. It made visible what for many was invisible, that thousands of Chileans survive day by day with just enough to eat. And what happens if the work of that day is no longer possible, they simply do not eat. So we are faced with the dilemma of health or food, and that requires solidarity from all of us. From the State, from private enterprise, from each family and from each individual.
At María Ayuda we were in the month of May in a solidarity collection campaign throughout Chile, in a virtual way and we hope to achieve the goal, extending it to June. But we cannot forget that behind every child in the home there is a family with serious material needs, and in every graduate a need that often cannot be postponed. We want to go out and meet this painful reality with concrete answers for them, at least with food, appealing also to the solidarity of all in this difficult time for Chile, especially for the most vulnerable.
A school crisis with serious consequences for the poorest
According to the Ministry of Education, 60 per cent of children who go on to second grade do not know how to read properly and the gap does not narrow in fourth grade where 58 per cent do not reach adequate levels. One of the greatest challenges posed by the quarantine generated by COVID-19 is to bring education from the classroom to the home.
Even more so, when there are fewer children who depend on technology and parental time to acquire the corresponding curricular knowledge. This is the case for those who are at the stage of learning to read and write. In the context of curricular subjects, reading and writing are basic skills that children must have at an early age in order to have safe access to other types of knowledge. There is a very strong lack of clarity in education in Chile because it has so many different objectives and does not have a focus. “Today, in my opinion, the most important focus should be that all children love reading,” says Claudia Fischer, María Ayuda’s technical director.
There is no doubt that in students who are better prepared from the time they read and write in their first years, school drop-out and failure decrease. Students with a strong reading and writing base are much better prepared for their academic future, which makes learning these particular subjects produce results, not only in the short term with learning to read and write, but it prepares them much better for what comes next.
For children in residential care, the challenge is greater. They are affected by the impact of multiple serious violations, which affect their cognitive development and especially their willingness to learn. In this scenario, the pandemic and the declaration of quarantine place them in a double confinement, far from their reference systems, amplifying the traumatic experiences and the tension in the face of schooling.
We have already completed three months of quarantine and suspension of classes, a period in which our 400 professionals and collaborators have been key to continuing our task as a social organization. More than ever, they have had to come together to plan daily actions and, at the same time, take care of the health of all those who make María Ayuda possible.
With the coronavirus our residences have had to adapt, having education as one of the most important challenges we have had to assume. For the children of our residences, school and school participation is an experiential space that, along with providing academic knowledge, favors participation and social inclusion, breaking the sense of stigmatization that implies the residential space. In this way, the suspension of this space impacted the processes and dynamics in the residences, amplifying the sensation of double confinement and the loss of control of space/time.
Concrete solidarity, now
Maria Ayuda, as well as other Schoenstatt social works in countries such as Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, do everything possible to not abandon the children and youth entrusted to them, in spite of the restrictions caused by the global health crisis.
Let us not wait for a global plan elaborated by some central crisis entity. We should not be waiting for the call from the above. Let us not wait for the perfect help whose perfection paralyzes us and prevents us from doing anything.
Let us not remain in the “we should”, or in the famous “someone” will do something.
Everyone can go out in solidarity, creativity and generosity to give a hand to María Ayuda. Now. Before it is too late.
With generous donations and with the creativity of raising funds among friends, businessmen, other Schoenstatters
Bank account in Europe:
IBAN: DE 33 4006 0265 0003 1616 03
Reason for Transfer: Maria Ayuda Chile
As was heard these days in a homily at a Schoenstatt Shrine:
“The Blessed Mother can be crowned again and again, but we will remove the crown if we do not act out of love in solidarity with those who suffer
Original Spanish 2020-06-05 Translated by María Aragón, Monterrey, México