Poorest of the poor most affected by earthquake in Chile

St Alberto Hurtado

St Alberto Hurtado

The poorest of the poor have suffered most in the massive earthquake which rocked Chile on 27 February. The Jesuits working in the country are appealing for help to rebuild homes, shelters and other vital buildings run by Hogar de Cristo, which were destroyed or severely damaged.

Hogar de Cristo (Hearth of Christ) was founded in 1944 by Jesuit priest, Alberto Hurtado, who was canonized in 2005.  Its work is focused on assisting the poorest among the poor and has programmes the entire length of Chile, in more than 130 different towns and cities.  Every day Hogar de Cristo serves more than 60,000 people (the homeless, women who have been assaulted, infants, people with mental and physical handicaps, etc…) and also supports small businesses which help Chileans to be self-sufficient.

Father Agustín Moreira SJ,  General Chaplain at Hogar de Cristo, said the earthquake (which reached 8.8 on the Richter Scale) caused severe damage. "Thank God we have not had any human casualties, but several of our programme centres have been destroyed or are structurally damaged.  Many of our small business programmes have had either their houses or business premises destroyed and we are reorganizing our social services in the affected areas."  Fr Moreira estimated the total rebuilding cost could run to US$ 10 million.

"The earthquake has destroyed many houses and families are in need of a roof.  Housing is an obvious need but the people who lost all their goods have other needs, like food, clothing, jobs, and also moral and spiritual assistance," said Fr Moreira.

Hogar de Cristo has delivered 500 tons of aid, mainly non-perishable food, but also some clothing and blankets. "We have 19 dining areas where people who have lost everything can have one or two meals per day.  We don't know how long we will be able to maintain these places, but it will surely take some time before people can regain their autonomy."

Father Moreira explained that small business ventures have been badly hit too. "We are trying to solve the need for jobs through our microcredit funding foundation that works with 39,000 families below the poverty line.  After the earthquake, 15,000 small businesses in the regions of O'Higgins, Maule, Biobio and Arauco were seriously damaged; 3,000 people lost their houses as well as their businesses.  Now they have no job and no income."

Visit:  www.fondoesperanza.clwww.hogardecristo.cl  or  ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-voices/20th-century-ignatian-voices/st-alberto-hurtado-sj-1901%E2%80%931952/   for more information.

Source: Jesuit Communications

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