Father Chuck's Legacy Inspires Perseverance, Solidarity, Thanksgiving, Miracles
Thirteen members of the greater Philadelphia community traveled last month to Nicaragua with Monsignor Francis X. Schmidt and Food For The Poor to visit communities they have previously assisted. The group also inaugurated phase three of an initiative known as “Father Chuck’s Challenge.” The recently completed self-sustaining project will improve the living conditions of the rural communities of El Hular and La Mora in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
Father Chuck’s Challenge is an initiative named in memory of Father Chuck Pfeffer, a priest who was beloved by the community and who was mentored by Msgr. Schmidt. Father Chuck’s Challenge provides a constant reminder to all who knew him about the importance of addressing the needs of the poorest of the poor – especially the young.
During the May 24 - 28 trip, group members witnessed how donations from their parish communities were able to provide 100 families in phase three of Father Chuck’s Challenge with safe, sturdy housing, sanitation facilities, and the supplies and resources necessary to raise chickens. The chicken eggs will provide a sustainable source of protein and a supplemental income. Additionally, residents will benefit from the construction of two community centers, the implementation of a water filtration system and a reforestation development plan.
In the impoverished community of San Ramón, located 9 miles outside of Matagalpa, the group was surprised when residents enthusiastically greeted them with a basket overflowing with assorted fruits.
“We were grateful to receive the thoughtfully prepared fruit basket,” said Msgr. Schmidt. “We are supposed to be feeding them, but they are feeding us physically and spiritually.”
The makeshift homes where the residents lived were poorly constructed with sticks and black plastic. The homes did not have locking doors, decent roofs or cement foundations. In May, the rainy season started, transforming their once dirt-floors into mud – and increasing the potential spread of disease. Workers already have leveled the land where the new Food For The Poor village will be built. Village plans include 50 furnished homes with access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, a two-room schoolhouse, a community center, a reforestation project and an animal husbandry project. Each family will receive a chicken coop, one rooster and two hens so that they can expand their stock of chickens for meat and eggs, which will supply the family with much needed protein and an additional source of income.
In San Ramón, the group met a petite, quiet woman who appeared to be about 80 years old. As she looked at Msgr. Schmidt, her face revealed the great hope and expectation that the villagers had despite the harsh daily conditions they have endured for generations.
“When the poor persist, God is able to perform miracles through us,” said Msgr. Schmidt.
At the La Chureca garbage dump, a group member photographed vultures sitting on the top of the trash pile. Cattle and other animals scavenged alongside people who searched for edible scraps of food and recyclable materials to sell. On a good day – when it has not rained and the trash has not been compacted by the trucks – workers can make an average of $2 to $3. The living conditions near the dump were dismal – the group witnessed a desperate need for housing in this region.
In Nicaragua, a donation of $3,100 provides a destitute family with a house and a latrine. Proper sanitation is essential to the health and welfare of a thriving family and helps prevent life-threatening illnesses.
To support Father Chuck’s Challenge, please make checks payable to Food For The Poor and include the special source code “SC # 74186” so the money can be properly allocated. Donations can be mailed to Food For The Poor, 6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073. All gifts are tax-deductible. Online donations can also be made through the charity’s secure Web site.
Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian agency provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.foodforthepoor.org.
Jennifer Leigh Oates
954.427.2222, ext. 6054