The formation house of the Sisters of Santa Ana in Cañete is like a bustling village. The Sisters and staff administer our sponsorship program, parents gather for family circle meetings and training, children come for youth groups, and teens meet for Confirmation classes. Families from all over the city also gather for community events and celebrations.
In 2007, a major earthquake rocked Peru, killing 600 people and destroying 76,000 homes. The formation house sustained damage that was never fully addressed. As a result, the Sisters lived with increasing anxiety as they saw the cracks and exposed metal framework corroding. When Peru’s national government warned that more seismic activity is possible, the Sisters contacted Chalice for support, concerned for the safety of the hundreds of people who work and socialize at the house.
Thanks to the generous spirits of Chalice supporters, the renovations were soon underway. Pausing for a few months in the spring, the Sisters have now completed all of the critical work. They have demolished, replaced, or heavily renovated the corroded central support columns, archways, and the security wall around the perimeter. They have also installed non-slip flooring where the previous tiling had collapsed. Approximately 850 people, including 550 sponsored by Chalice, once again have a safe and secure place to meet, work, pray, and play!
The children and staff from our Neema site in Tanzania wish you warm Christmas blessings filled with holy joy, prosperity, and hopeful blessings for the future.
“Christmas comes to our life every year with new hope and love to each and every person of the world,” says Sr. Mary Grace, our Neema site director.
Last Christmas, children at our Neema site celebrated the Holy Eucharist and offered thoughtful prayers for their beloved sponsors. After prayerfully reflecting upon the birth of Christ, children and their families enjoyed a delicious lunch together. The menu included chicken, chips, salad, rice, and fruit, favourites of many! It was one of the most enjoyable moments of the year.
In Ukraine, beds are one of our most requested gift catalogue items. Many families live in old, small homes or rented apartments, and can’t afford to replace broken or worn out furniture. Some can’t afford to purchase enough beds for the household, which means that children must share beds or sleep on couches or on the floor.
Maksym, a 10 year old boy from our Pochaiv site, lives with his parents, grandmother, and younger brother Tymofiy. They all share their grandmother’s old house, which is small and worn down. There wasn’t enough beds for everyone, so Maksym had to sleep on the old, hard couch. Tymofiy slept in a small crib, even though it was broken and already too small for him.
At our sponsor sites in Bolivia, the Christmas season is an incredibly special and anticipated time of the year. In 2019, families and children at our Leventate Mujer site warmly celebrated the birth of Jesus with a joyous community gathering, thanks to the kind supporters who donated to our Christmas fund!
The planning for this long-awaited event began well in advance. Chalice family circles, comprised of parents of sponsored children, eagerly helped arrange music, gifts, and food for the party. They were especially keen to share recipes for custom chocolates and traditional fritters! One group was in charge of rehearsing traditional Christmas carols and arranging a dance for the children to learn. Each and every participant put so much effort into preparing for this jubilant event.
The children of St. Mary’s School for the Visually Impaired are gathered in their assembly hall, squirming with anticipation. Their teacher tells them it’s time, and they burst into song. To the tune of Frere Jacques, they sing “Father Christmas, Father Christmas, where are you?” When they get to the words “Ring your bell, ring your bell,” Santa’s bell clangs as he enters the room, an older student dressed in costume. When the song ends, he addresses the crowd, “I wish you a Merry Christmas!”.
“Amen!” they reply.
“I wish that all your dreams come true.”
As the choir breaks into We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Santa and his helper distribute treats to all the children.
The Christmas celebration is a special time for children and staff. Children live far away from home to study at the specialized school in Kawambwa, Zambia, and the Sisters, teachers, and classmates become their family. The celebration is a time of prayerful thanksgiving, singing, and of course, a feast!
In many communities surrounding our Nairobi site in Kenya, a lack of employment opportunities has been an ongoing issue, especially for young adults. In these areas, it’s a constant struggle for many individuals to find stable, well-paying work that they can rely on for a steady income.
Our East Africa Coordinator, Martha, walks by a particular corner every day on her way to and from work. Known as the “jobless corner,” young men would wait here to be approached and chosen for daily wage labour jobs. She would see these same young men waiting for work, day in and day out. A naturally social person, Martha would stop and chat, and got to know the young men over many months.
Martha was saddened by their stories. Despite their best efforts, they were chronically unemployed, and their families were suffering. So Martha did what she does best – she educated them! She met with them as a group, listened, connected them to local resources, and gave shape to their dreams. Upon learning about their skills and potential, she arranged for the group to receive entrepreneurship workshops and financial training thanks to kind Chalice donors. Thus, the “Njiru Stars” youth group was born!
One of the long-cherished dreams of families at our Samar sponsor site in the Philippines is to build a life where the social, cultural, and economic capabilities of each family member are nurtured and developed. A great starting point for families to start reaching for success together is by owning a safe and secure home. For most low-income earners, including sponsored families at our site, this lifetime dream is often so difficult to achieve due to inadequate space and insufficient finances.
So far, Chalice’s COVID-19 disaster fund has distributed nearly $613,000 to families at our sites who have been hit the hardest by the global pandemic. At our Arica site in Chile, $12,453.35 was used to help sponsored children and elders, including non-sponsored elders with chronic medical conditions who were abandoned by their families and are living alone.
In Chile, elders over the age of 75 were prohibited from going outside regularly due to the pandemic, forcing them to make quick outings to higher priced neighborhood convenience stores because they had no one to travel to nearby cheaper supermarkets for them. While elders in Chile do receive a small pension, it is barely enough to survive. Without family support, most seniors live a lonely existence, unable to afford their medications or nutritious food. According to a report by the Ministry of Social Development, the price of a basic food basket rose in October 2019, then again in January, and doubled in April 2020, making it even harder for poor elders and families to make ends meet.
Less than 20 percent of people living in rural Tanzania have access to electricity. Expanding the electrical grid to remote rural areas would require significant funding, which would conflict with other much-needed services such as education, health, and road infrastructure. While it’s recognized that access to electricity is a major barrier to economic expansion, there are currently no plans to increase the electrical grid.
Families at our sites use candles and kerosene lamps for light and wood stoves for cooking. These families are often poor, so these costly light sources are used sparingly so homework and any other tasks not finished before sundown are left undone. Thanks to generous donations to our gift catalogue, families from our Neema site were thrilled to be given the gift of solar lights, which in essence, is a gift of extra time as they can do more after dark than they could before!