“Whatsoever you do …” Guyana’s faces of the Poor
DEIRDRE C. MAYS
Poverty and destitution is present in every country, someone is suffering regardless of the unemployment rates. Images of starving people are regularly flashed on television screens whether they come from rural South Carolina or Ethiopia.
However, it is one thing to see a mother holding an emaciated child in her arms on television from the security of a comfortable home, and quite another to walk among families living in shacks and children playing around open sewage.
Food For The Poor (FFP) is trying to do something about poverity. It an organization created for the Herculean task of trying to minister to impoverished people in the Caribbean and Latin America. It was established in 1982 with the wide-range focus on improving people’s health, economic, social and spiritual conditions.
FFP took a group of 15 journalists in the Catholic press to Guyana Aug. 21-26 so they could see the reality. The group visited some of the programs the nonprofit corporation already has in place and in the interior jungle areas where more help is needed.
Located in South America, Guyana is a country that has very limited infrastructure and depends on a rapidly declining exports of sugar (demerara), rice and bauxite.
According to FFP statistics, over one-third of Guyanese children under age five are undernourished. Most of the homes in the inner cities like Georgetown are dilapidated shacks made from rotting wood that rest on stilts. Most families, comprised of six or more people, live in one or two small rooms together.
Out in the jungles, serviced by cargo planes, Amerindians, the country’s indigenous people have no running water or electricity. Many of the villagers rely heavily on cassava, a root plant from which they can make flour, and their small farms. They are often cut off from supplies during the rainy season because the tiny airstrips are washed out or the cargo planes are grounded.
Spiritually, Catholics are ministered to by six diocesan priests and a handful of Jesuit missionary priests. Catechists are trained to pass on the faith to their villages by holding communion services and prepare people to receive the sacraments. The priests act as circuit riders, or fliers as is the case in the remote interior villages, visiting communities three to five times a year.
The approach Food For The Poor takes is one of request-based need. The corporation raises funds and uses the money to purchases materials such as chainsaws for Amerindian villages, refrigerators for clinics for the elderly, or school supplies for inner-city programs. These items are shipped in freight trailers and distributed through churches and charitable organizations already operating in areas of need. It is an interfaith operation; poverty knows no race or creed.
FFP has a spiritual mission: to link the church of the First World with the church of the Third World in a manner that aids both the materially and spiritually poor. All of its programs are designed to empower the poor in spirit through direct ministries of teaching, encouragement and prayer. For more information or to make a donation, contact:
Food For The Poor,
550 SW 12th Ave.
Deerfield Beach, FL 33442