There’s an old saying that goes something like “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Our priests and Brothers have taken this saying to heart and are working to increase the number of programs and projects in which we “teach men and women to fish.” As you may know, this kind of outreach is called “systemic change.”
Change for the better is always good, especially when that change is lasting and transformative. In 2014, the Missionary Servants gifted the people of La Empresa, Colombia, with a large tractor to be used by the farmers of this poor community. Our own Father Edwin Guerra, S.T., proposed this project and shared with the Congregation the plight of this community. La Empresa is where Father Edwin was born and raised so he knows first-hand how hard life can be for a struggling farming community where most have not completed grammar school and have been devastated by past years of oppressive government, civil war and violence.
Three years later, Father Edwin is now a Vocation Promoter in Costa Rica, but he continues to keep the people of La Empresa close to his heart. We recently got an update on the progress being made there. “A single tractor has made a huge difference in the lives of these deserving people. Today 23 families benefit from the tractor and its harvests,” explains Fr. Edwin, “The project has been so successful that the community has formed a collective. By forming the collective, they are able to apply for government subsidies which have allowed them to broaden their entrepreneurial opportunities, especially for women.” The collective is also looking to the future and studying if milk and cheese production could be added.
The quality of life for the people of La Empresa is much improved. With their earnings from the harvests, they are able to purchase much-needed medicines and send their children to school — two luxuries that they could not afford before the tractor.