Peru – "God invites us to observe, ask ourselves what to do": Fr Valdivia, SDB, from Venezuelan "Don Bosco House for Migrants and Refugees"

26 July 2019

(ANS - Lima) – "Unfortunately, the existential peripheries of our cities are densely populated by people who are discarded, marginalized, oppressed, discriminated against, abused, exploited, abandoned, poor and suffering," said Pope Francis speaking of migrants and refugees. In Latin America there are more than 5 million migrants and refugees who leave from one of the richest countries in the world: Venezuela. Fr José Valdivia talks about a harsh and brutal reality experienced by the 800,000 Venezuelans who have emigrated to Peru. In a long and moving interview, he talks about his experience with young Venezuelans, a ministry that starts at 9:00 pm and continues until after 1:00 am.

When was this experience with young Venezuelans born?

We started this work on behalf of the young on the day of the Virgin Mary, 24 August 2018.

And why was this center born?

As a Provincial Economer and director of the Houses of Don Bosco in Peru, I travel a lot and it hurt to see hundreds of people, especially young people, with nothing to do, wandering the streets of Lima. I have seen whole families sleeping on the street, holding their children tight to resist together against the intense cold of Lima. And it hurt me to see the large number of children and young people, with their broken backpacks and their sad faces, looking for something to eat and getting ready to sleep somewhere in the streets. I saw them selling on the buses and being poorly treated. I asked myself: what would a son of Don Bosco have done?

In which Salesian house are Venezuelan children welcomed?

When I started asking myself how I could help them, I realized that Magdalena del Mar had a house that could accommodate these young people. I saw that God had enlightened me and with the Provincial's decision and the support of the Don Bosco Foundation, of Fr Raúl Acuña, we started this work in favour of young Venezuelans.

And what do the Salesians want to do through this experience?

The situation of the Venezuelans today is indeed a real humanitarian crisis for migrants and refugees. These Venezuelan brothers have nothing, they have no goal. We Salesians have decided to take care of young people between 18 and 25, totally defenseless, poor and marginalized. The house is called "Don Bosco House for migrants and refugees".

Father José, what's your job?

God gives us experiences along the way that make us grow. God invites us to look at each day and ask ourselves: "What must I do, Lord?" And the answer was given to me on seeing so many abandoned young people, destroyed in the streets of Lima. I arrive at the "Don Bosco House for migrants and refugees" at 9:00 pm and return to the Provincial House at 2:00 am. I work as Provincial Economer and director for the houses of Don Bosco. My only job is being with young people. I arrive and they wait for me to speak, or rather, I am there to listen to them. Many mourn their misfortune, others suffer the distance, some have even lost the desire to live because there is no work and they do not know what to send to their family who are starving in Venezuela. What do I offer them? My presence, my time to listen to them and my words of encouragement. But that's not enough! They need work. 

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