Chilean Church opens greenhouse to employ youth with Down syndrome

Vegetable sprouts in greenhouse Credit Unsplash CNA Unsplash.

The Archdiocese of Concepcion in Chile has begun construction on a greenhouse to grow vegetables, a new project which will contribute to the inclusion of young people with Down syndrome in the workforce.

The vegetables will be raised using organic methods. The soil will be enriched with compost.

This initiative builds on an August 2014 initiative, where young people with Downs syndrome provide personalized service for clients from businesses and institutions. 

The greenhouse will span 1400 square feet. Its roofing will be made of long-lasting polycarbonate. It is expected to be ready within a month and a half.

The project will at first bring in "a small group of young people, which will be increased over time. The idea is that this project, with this model, can be imitated in schools and parishes," said activity coordinator, Fr. Pedro Gomez.

Directing the project will be a deacon who is an expert in the environmental field, a layman in charge of setting up the facility, and Fr. Gomez, who has done studies in ecological conversion, agriculture and afforestation.

Fr. Gomez, who is also the vicar general of the archdiocese, said that in the future, the greenhouse will create a seed bank and recycling networks.

The initiative takes its direction from the encyclical Laudato Si' which "has a lot to do with the care of our common home and its connection to social issues," the priest said.

The project does not have a name yet, but Archbishop Fernando Chomali of Concepcion suggested "Simon of Cyrene." Fr. Gomez explained that "today, we see that we can help carry the cross of other brothers - in this case, young people with Down syndrome - accompany them and offer them a source of work."

It is Christ who "helps us carry our own weaknesses and fragility and invites us to be more compassionate and merciful, to also be an expression of the works of mercy that Pope Francis invites us to," the priest said.

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