Sixty years ago, the Salvatorians arrived in Venezuela where they are now present in three places: Caracas, San Félix and Mérida. In Caracas, they have an important track record of social apostolates especially in Catia. In this immense slum, located on the steep hillsides of the outskirts of the big city and considered as one of the most dangerous places in the world, our confreres have established four schools, a dispensary with a mobile clinic and two shelter houses for children.
One of the Salvatorian success stories in Catia is La Constancia, a primary and secondary school which has been fully equipped with a multipurpose hall, a sports field and laboratories.
The two “Casas Hogares” – homes for street children and abandoned youth in Catia – were set up over ten years ago. El Encuentro hosts young boys from 4 to 14 years old, while El Timón is for 15 to 21 year olds. In total, the two Salvatorian houses are safe havens for nearly 30 minors and adolescents. Our confreres enable them to live, study and grow up in a family-like and healthy environment with Christian values of peace, dignity and mutual respect. In fact, otherwise the children would have nowhere to stay except for the streets, where they are an easy prey for gangs engaged in drugs, crime and violence. Our confreres are running the two shelters despite limited financial means.
In recent years, at the premises of Santo Cristo church in the slum of Catia, our confreres have initiated an art & culture project. Fr. Luis Domingo Díaz successfully manages it and organizes art, cultural and sports workshops and courses for the boys and girls living in this most deprived and densely populated area of Caracas. In this way, these marginalized children can pursue personal interests and nurture their potential. The various activities that are offered on a regular basis – music, dance, drawing, theater, soccer and volleyball – bring structure in the childrens’ lives, keep them off the streets and help them to strengthen their self-esteem, confidence and discipline. The opportunity to exercise and enjoy these activities, to live moments of joy and companionship, has already inspired many children who are now aware of their talents and have begun to put their new skills at the service of their community.
As with all social initiatives, human and financial resources are key. While the Missionary Sisters of St Peter Claver and their benefactors have generously bestowed a grant on the arts & culture project through SOFIA, the Austrian Salvatorian mission office raised additional funding. However, no activity would be possible without the dedication of the Salvatorian community or the commitment and inspiration of the teachers – talented young people from Catia itself.
As the project is a beautiful means of evangelization through art, our confreres are in the process of developing similar projects in Mérida and San Félix which will be launched in 2017. SOFIA looks forward to providing continuous support!