Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 7, 2010
Local donors sponsor Nicaraguan co-ops
Fr. Denis Hebert explains how Roots for Change dollars impact the lives of the Nicaraguan poor
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Father Denis Hebert, who has spent more than 40 years fighting poverty in Central and South America, the last 20 in Nicaragua, no longer feels alone in his battle.
Apart from the many Canadians who support his mission, Hebert now feels he has the support of some of the leaders of these countries.
Hebert, 80, is enthused with Latin America leaders such as Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia because they are seriously trying to improve the living conditions of their people.
"We have to encourage these leaders that are born of the people to continue doing good, because if they get discouraged and there is no one to support them, they will just give up and it's the people that will pay the cost," Hebert said in a May 28 interview.
Hebert and two of his collaborators in the fight against poverty - Harol Osmany Andrades and Luis Enrique Cruz - are currently visiting their supporters in Alberta and British Columbia.
The trio spoke at several French Catholic high schools and other organizations in Alberta during the first three weeks of their six-week long visit. Hebert said the Francophone Catholic school district has supported his mission for the past three years, sending at least two large delegations of students and teachers to his Nicaraguan projects.
Hebert, a native of Villeneuve and a priest for 52 years, began his Latin American journey in the late 1960s, inspired by Pope John VI's 1968 encyclical On the Development of Peoples, which called on the Church to be on the side "of those peoples who are trying to escape the ravages of hunger, poverty, endemic disease and ignorance."
He moved to Peru in 1969 to help operate a parish the Edmonton Archdiocese had opened in Lima three years earlier. He stayed there until 1976.
He later served in Panama and St. Vincent and the Grenadines before moving to Nicaragua in 1990.
Since then, he has lived and worked in Edgard Lang, a barrio of about 2,000 people in the capital city of Managua.
With help from Canadians, Hebert established various cooperatives, child and youth programs, health clinics, first aid posts, as well as high school and university scholarship programs.
Hebert's mission is supported financially by Roots of Change, a St. Albert-based, non-profit charitable society established three years ago to ensure the legacy of Hebert's work in Nicaragua continues after he retires.
Roots for Change provides more than $200,000 annually to FUNDACCO, the organization that administers Hebert's work in Nicaragua. Visitors Andrades and Cruz both work for FUNDACCO.
Despite government efforts, 72 per cent of the people in Nicaragua live in dire poverty.
Said Hebert, "We feel that it is important for us to help people learn how to help themselves to discover the dignity of their own person and to work with others in the community to improve the living conditions of the families and the community."
In impoverished areas such as San Benito, Somotillo and Cinco Pinos, FUNDACCO has set up several types of cooperatives, including agricultural, small business, and credit and saving coops. FUNDACCO helps organize these coops and provides initial funding.
In the past few years FUNDACO has set up first aid posts in six impoverished communities bordering on Lake Managua.
"This service is necessary because access to these communities is difficult and children suffer mostly from such diseases as diarrhea, asthma, skin diseases because of the conditions in which they live in," Hebert explained.
"They are very poor and their living conditions are conducive to those kind of illnesses among the children."
During their six-week visit, the trio will also stop at St. Joseph's Hospital in Comox, B.C. The hospital staff has supported FUNDACCO's health projects in Nicaragua for about eight years. Most staffers have their support for Hebert's mission automatically deducted from their paycheque.
Roots of Change Foundation is trying to raise $250,000 this year to support Hebert's mission. Donations can be sent to Roots of Change Foundation, PO Box 92, St. Albert. T8N 1N2.
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