Guatemala – “Casa Bethania”: support for migrants

17 February 2021

(ANS - San Benito) - The Salesian parish in San Benito, in the Department of Petén, Guatemala, among its many activities also animates “Casa Bethania” for Migrants, one of the two homes for migrants present in the Apostolic Vicariate of Petén. In addition to these two houses, two parishes on the border in Naranjo and Melchor are stopovers for migrants who cross the country from Central America and South America on their way to Mexico and the USA.

"At the moment, the flow is very strong; through the caravans of migrants, everyone wants to try to reach the 'American dream'. In these days, we have also prepared the corridors of the house so that people can sleep there. They have a clear goal: they do not want to delay their journey. They just want to eat something, sleep and move on," explains Fr Giampiero De Nardi, a Salesian missionary in charge of the Salesian house in San Benito.

The pandemic situation also affects “Casa Bethania”, which complies with all anti-Covid-19 safety regulations. On a normal day, 55 people were being served; now, due to the pandemic, a maximum of 30 are served, people who receive food and a place to sleep, as well as medical care from a volunteer nurse from Spain.

In the home, migrants can also receive psychological support and those who may need asylum are identified, people whose life is in danger, and those who, more than migrants, are classified as refugees, as they are fleeing situations of violence in their countries.

The house functions thanks to volunteers, who come mostly from the parish, who collaborate in cleaning the rooms, preparing food and collecting food.

The house has been active for about four years, a period of time in which it is estimated that it has provided about 18 thousand meals, also considering that in 2020 the house was closed due to the pandemic; the number clearly indicates the large migratory flow present in the region.

Currently, most of the intercepted migrants come from Honduras, and in many cases they are people hard hit by hurricanes Eta and Iota last year.

“There are people who have lost everything, many tell us they have lost their homes. A young man told us how he saw his partner die as she was being carried away by the strong current of a river, and she was all his family. They come in large groups, entire families, even with grandparents. In their passage through Guatemala, they had problems with the police, mistreatment, and everything was very difficult for them. Right now, the only goal they have is to get to the United States. They want nothing else and are not interested in any other option," concludes Fr De Nardi.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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