Catholic ministry in Colombia marks three years of feeding migrants

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June 5 marks three years since the Diocese of Cúcuta, Colombia opened its Divine Providence House of Transit in response to the thousands of Venezuelan migrants streaming into Colombia.

In those three years, the charitable ministry has provided more than 3.5 million meals to needy people fleeing the economic, political and social crisis in Venezuela.

In a June 5 statement, the diocese said the Transit House "is a work of charity that arose from the desire to help our brother migrants from Venezuela and Colombians returning home" due to the crisis in Venezuela. The ministry is located just a few blocks from the bridge and highway that join the two countries.

Since Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen hyperinflation and severe shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities, and millions have emigrated.

Colombia has been a major destination for Venezuelans fleeing their homes.

The Diocese of Cúcuta has been serving the migrants through the Divine Providence House of Transit in addition to eight parish soup kitchens.

From its beginning, the Transit House has provided ongoing spiritual support, balanced meals, and medical care, as well as free medicine, psycho-sociological care and legal aid with the support of volunteer professionals.

During its first year, with the support of individuals and organizations, the ministry provided 421,400 lunches, serving 1,500 migrants daily. In the second year, the figure rose to 1,500,000 meals between lunches, breakfasts and other food, serving 5,000 people daily, with priority given to children, pregnant women and older adults.

"After almost three years of service, on March 13, 2020, the Transit House had served 3,530,520 meals. That was the day it had to close its doors in order to comply with the regulations issued by the national government due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19)," the diocese explained.

Father José David Caña Pérez, coordinator of the Transit House, said that although the humanitarian aid center is no longer operating as it did, it has still managed to prepare close to 300 lunches for places where the greatest number of homeless people and people in extreme need are found.

The Transit House has received support from Pope Francis, people and businesses in Cúcuta, and international organizations including the World Food Program, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Cáritas Internationalis, Adveniat, Caritas Colombia, Spanish Caritas, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Spanish Bishops' Conference; and the Spanish radio station COPE.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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