Lima, Peru, Apr 23, 2020 / 10:02 am (CNA).- As the ongoing coronavirus lockdown in Peru leaves the working poor in a vulnerable situation, one priest has been working to ensure that thousands in need have access to food.
Fr. Omar Sánchez Portillo is the secretary general of Caritas Lurín, on metro Lima’s south side.
Sánchez has distributed more than 15,000 food baskets, with the help of donors and volunteers at the Beatitudes Association, which he founded, since the nationwide quarantine was declared March 15. Peru’s Ministry of Health has confirmed 19,000 cases of coronavirus with 530 deaths.
Recently, Sánchez also received a donation of 5,000 live chickens from a poultry farm. He found himself needing to quickly process the chickens for distribution.
Sánchez turned to his fellow priests in the diocese of Lurín with an appeal on Whatsapp. To his surprise, almost 30 priests showed up to volunteer, including Bishop-elect Cristobal Mejía, who was recently named bishop of Chulucanas.
The priests and other volunteers worked all day, plucking, cleaning and preparing the birds for distribution.
“Today has been a long day,” Sánchez commented on his Facebook page. “Thank you dear priests! Thank you for your example, your work, and your joy. I feel proud to belong to a such an active, alive diocese so full of God, and to be part of a presbyterate full of holiness and enthusiasm for our priestly mission.”
In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Sánchez noted that in the Diocese of Lurín, which is comprised of 55 parishes, there are many poor people who do not have access to electricity or running water.
The priest estimates about 60% of the people in the diocese live in extreme poverty. Southern Lima, where his diocese is located, contains the third and fourth most COVID-infected areas in the country.
Sánchez also pointed out that most Peruvians lack the ability to save money, which leaves vulnerable populations even more at risk during the quarantine.
“A lot of people are out of work and out on the street, a lot of them are temporary workers, many of them earn a living day-to-day,” he said.
So far, volunteers have distributed 75,000 food baskets throughout the South Lima area. However, the needs remain great.
“Every day in the parishes there are people out looking, knocking on doors, that haven’t gotten any food, or what they have gotten isn’t enough and has already run out,” he explained.
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