One of the church's greatest strengths in the face of poverty is its local presence. Churches have a grass-roots knowledge of the people that make up its community. That includes the people living on its fringes, the outcasts, the most marginalised. Normally these are the kind of people who are often at the bottom of the list when it comes to getting help. As part of our determination to serve those in the greatest need, we're working with local churches, encouraging them to seek out the most marginalised in their communities, often with life-changing, and stigma-challenging results.
'Churches have a grass-roots knowledge of the people that make up its community. That includes the people living on its fringes, the outcasts, the most marginalised.'
Love in a place of fear
With an average of 20 murders committed every day, Honduras is one of the world’s most violent countries. Living in a crime-riddled riverbank slum in San Pedro Sula, Honduras second largest city, it’s no wonder families like Angela’s go to bed frightened.
Angela, her husband and five children live in a two-room hut made of salvaged wood and plastic sheeting, perched precariously above the river. It gives little protection when it rains. In the last rainy season, the family’s latrine was washed into the river.
Gang violence and drug trafficking regularly take a terrible toll. The river that runs beside the slum and through San Pedro Sula is used as a dumping site for bodies. This is the same river that Angela’s children must wade through to reach school since the bridge was damaged.
'With an average of 20 murders committed every day, Honduras is one of the world’s most violent countries.It’s no wonder families like Angela’s go to bed frightened.'
There is no school in the slum, the government won’t provide any services as the people aren’t legally settled. Angela and her family are one of 40,000 families living in the riverbank slum, without access to any facilities.
These are the very places where Jesus calls us to make the most profound difference. This Lent, the cross reminds us that redemption is a gift for everyone, no matter how desperate the circumstances.
Finding a voice
Tearfund’s partner, Comisión de Acción Social Menonita (CASM), is helping women like Angela set up committees to be a voice for their community. CASM helps the community come together, support one another and create a better life, despite the dangers.
Change is happening: thanks to community leaders, a truck now comes twice a week to pick up rubbish. The community is educating people on the risks of dengue fever, chikungunya and zika and how they can be prevented. They’re also creating safe places for women to talk about the domestic violence that many of them still face.
Because of the intervention of CASM, Angela has discovered a reserve of strength and hope that she wouldn’t have dreamed possible. But it’s not just women like her that need support and encouragement…
Today, with training from CASM, Angela and others on the committee are calling for changes that will give the riverbank slum families a safe place to live.
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