Venezuela: Dominga’s Open Canteen

For several years now Dominga, a volunteer of the Focolare Movement of Valencia (Venezuela), has been managing an open canteen for the elderly in her neighbourhood. The iniziative was born to allow the elderly people living in poverty to have a balanced diet in a welcoming environment. The elderly already arrive in the morning and they can stay with people of their age, playing dominoes or watching television, but above all to be in an environment where they are looked after with care.

Dominga is always attentive towards all the elderly who come to the canteen and, when one of them stops coming, she personally goes to visit him or her, often finding them in a pitiful situation and unable to move.

Lately the foodstuffs to prepare the meals were no longer arriving regularly; so much so that the elderly wanted to organize themselves to go and complain to the regional government and to tell them that at the canteen they not only received food but were also listened to and loved personally.

In the meantime, a new coordinator for the canteen was just appointed. As soon as she arrived, she removed some of the elderly from the list of those allowed to come to the canteen, saying that when she did her inspection they were not present and so money was being spent for people who were not making use of this service.

Dominga, pushed by the love for these people, firmly explained that the elderly who were being removed from the list were precisely those who were the weakest and most in need, because of their serious health problems she would ask their relatives to bring the meals to their homes.

The list of the coordinator would also have been used to include those in it in a new pension scheme of the national government, and so not being ont he list meant that a grave injustice would be committed.

Once a destitute person came to the canteen hoping to receive some food. Naturally meals are given only to those who are registered, but Dominga felt that she couldn’t close the door in his face. In fact, she had learned, listening to the story of Chiara Lubich and her first companions, that in every poor person there is Jesus. So she invited this poor person to her house, where he was able to wash himself, she offered him some clean clothes and finally she gave him something to eat.

Dominga shares: “One day two men were fighting among themselves, I tried to calm them down but I wasn’t able to do so. I remembered a sentence that I heard in Church: “Where there is peace and love, God is there”. I shared this with them and immediately they fell silent and calmed down”.

In these past few weeks there have been some difficulty regarding the documents of the Declaration of Profits that the canteen, as a non-profit organization, must prepare. The procedure is quite complicated. Recently a sensitive person, who came to know that the elderly were well treated at the canteen, offered to help Dominga to deal with the complicated documents, each time she needed help.


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