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CEI: a project in Venezuela financed with “eight per thousand” funds. “A humanitarian tragedy of incalculable proportions”

Venezuela, where “a humanitarian tragedy of incalculable proportions in under way”, Father José Paris Alonso, of Don Orione, told SIR, will receive CEI funds from Italy’s eight per thousand tax devolution scheme to the Church. The CEI funds will serve to support a project in Vergas for women and children. “When you hug them – the priest said – it’s like embracing a sac of bones. It’s heartbreaking.” As many as 285 projects have been funded with eight per thousand funds, approved by the Committee for Charitable Interventions in Third World Countries of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) in 2017, totalling (to date, in the current year) 48.437.056 EUR

“We are witnessing a humanitarian tragedy of incalculable proportions, if we don’t try to stop it in time”, said Father José Paris Alonso, Provincial Superior of the Don Orione Congregation for Venezuela. His words depict the situation of a Country facing a political and social crisis that is bringing the population on its knees. Political protests have been ongoing for over 80 days. To date, over 70 people died in street demonstrations, killed by repressive action.

A tragic humanitarian situation due to the shortage of medicine and basic necessities. “I spent the past month in Caraballeda and Barquisimeto”, said Father José. “The situation in Caraballeda is calmer compared to the first months of the year. I see more food on the streets, although the prices are unaffordable for the population, the Country rations the small amounts of food available distributed to people standing on long lines. There are no medicines.”

The aid of the Italian Church, devolved to charitable interventions to Third World Country via eight-per-thousand income tax funds also reaches Venezuela.. In its latest meeting of June 23-24 in Rome, the CEI Committee approved 115 projects totalling 13.432.335 EUR. The projects recipient of eight per thousand funds involve world countries: 89 in Africa; 12 in Latin America; 13 in Asia, 1 in the Middle East. The list includes Father José’s “project” for Venezuela.

The Opera don Orione has been actively present in the parish church Our Lady de la Candelaria di Caraballeda for the past 25 years. In faithfulness to its charism, the religious order prioritizes the poorest among the poor. In 1999 the city of Vargas was hit by devastating floods. Now the Region is coping with a tragic draught, that caused serious damage to sanitation systems. “It happened that hundreds of school students were suddenly left without water. Can you imagine?”, said Father José. The project supported by Italian bishops aims at improved access to drinking water for the parish community of Carabelleda through the construction of two wells. Approximately 7000 people would benefit from it.

The project equally envisages the restructuring of the Mamma Carolina school, attended by 103 children (from 16 months to 6 years of age) along with new equipment, the building of two didactic structures near the parish and a multi-purpose hall. The structures will serve to improve the living conditions of young girls, victims of urban and domestic violence, pregnant youths or with small children, through vocational courses that will help them access the job market and continue their studies until the end of high school.

“The children are the most vulnerable, they are those who suffer the most”, said Father José. At the same time they are those who can face and change the situation. You understand that they are the major victims of the crisis when their hug makes you feel as if you are hugging a bag of bones. It’s heartbreaking.”

Then there are the women who give everything they can, as in any part of the world. “Women have a more important role than they do elsewhere. They carry the weight of the family, they are the cornerstones of relations, the engines of education. If we fail to help the women, a new Venezuela will remain an impossible dream.”

“I have already experienced the tragedy of Vergas in December 1999”, said Father José. “It was a very difficult situation. I would never have imagined that it could be hit by yet another tragedy, which in this case is not caused by nature but by man.”

Moreover, the population wants simple, fundamental things: “They want water, food, education, care for those in need and a place to meet to restore unity.” This would be impossible without external support, which, however “small” compared to huge problems and needs, remains a beacon of light and hope that helps overcome even the darkest moments.”

The project for Venezuela is the 285th project funded with eight per thousand tax devolution funds, approved by the Italian Bishops’ Committee for Charitable Interventions in Third World Countries for the year 2017, totalling (to date, in the current year) 48.437.056 EUR.

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