Focus 2021

Padre Chava - MEG01-05-2021

Not even pandemic can stop Salesian Refectory "Father Chava"

(Tijuana, Mexico)The "Proyecto Salesiano Tijuana" A.C. (PST) has been bringing some hope to Tijuana, Baja California Norte, Mexico for 34 years. Today it is divided into 8 programs (5 oratories, 2 educational institutions and a public canteen), located in the city's most vulnerable and conflictual areas, and every month it serves about 30,000 people with food, medical and psychological services, legal advice, sports, cultural activities, and basic education. During the pandemic, the PST was forced to suspend some activities; in the educational part, it adapted to the protocols suggested by the government, while for Masses it followed the indications received from the archdiocese of Tijuana ... But the only place where the doors have never closed, while always respecting the rules of biosecurity, is the Salesian Refectory "Father Chava".

The refectory is one of the youngest works of the PST, but it is among the best known.

“We are known and appreciated for the service we offer in the community: we provide food, nutrition, medical and psychological services, legal advice, and we also offer a hospitality service for men. We serve migrants, deportees, people in street situations, entire families and the elderly… For years we have seen many people suffer from the lack of opportunities and during the pandemic the population in difficulty has increased,” say the leaders of the PST.

At the beginning, the services were necessarily reduced and were limited to the delivery of food and medical service; Claudia Portela, coordinator of the Refectory, remembers that one morning she went out and told the beneficiaries of the service that from that moment the method of access and administration would be different: they would have to queue and before entering they had to wash their hands, put on antibacterial gel and then collect the food in several stages.

The pandemic, of course, also hit the PST as a civil association: donations dropped, volunteers who ensured services decreased for fear of being infected, and just when the PST could barely provide 800 daily users, it had to start having to help about 2,000 a day.

Faced with this situation, its members have opted to network, turning to governmental and non-governmental institutions. “For example,” they continue, “at the municipal level in the service of 'Atención al Migrante'; we have arranged with many shelters to buy products at the supermarket; at the state level, the Secretariat for Development gave us food, the Mayor's wife sent burritos; and organizations such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration and Amnesty International, as well as many benefactors and people of good, have given us great support.”

After more than a year of pandemic, the PST can be said to resist. “We are worried about our schools, children and young people who have stopped studying due to lack of resources ... But the refectory continues to work and little by little we are adding other services, such as hair-cutting,” conclude the project managers.