The Famvin Homeless Alliance conference brings together over 100 Vincentians working in homelessness from six continents, to hear and learn from each other and experts in the field. The conference will offer skills and knowledge to those practitioners so they can improve their service, as well as offering opportunities to directly engage in Famvin Homeless Alliance initiatives.The main topics of the conference centre around the three forms of homelessness tackled by the FHA (street homelessness; refugees/IDPs; and slum dwellings). Keynote lectures are delivered by a range of senior leaders. Speakers come from organisations including the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Caritas, the Daughters of Charity and Congregation of the Mission, the SSVP, Depaul International and the Institute of Global Homelessness.
In this page you can download a press review about the principal news published about father Pedro Opeka.
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Father Pedro what does it mean today to live in Akamasoa? How many people and families live in Akamasoa?
To live at Akamasoa means to embark on a journey to recover dignity. It means to stand up and become a responsible and respected person. It also means to start a new life based on works, education and discipline. In addition, to live at Akamasoa means to accept to live in the Truth and to embrace the daily fight for justice. Living at Akamasoa is firstly action, not words. Here we never disguise the truth, we try to be straightforward when dealing with problems and not go around the issues; and this is sincerity. Presently, there are 25 000 people who are benefitting from our social project. Moreover, every year, 30 000 poor people come to Akamasoa for specific helps: food, medicines, and clothing.
What are the difficulties and challenges that you encounter in your everyday service to the Poor?
The daily challenges are mostly related to truth itself because a poor person from the streets tends to fabricate lies to seduce you since he feels he needs to lie to get you interested in helping him. Another difficulty is that a poor person tends not to keep his word; he says “yes” without committing himself in the long term. Another difficulty is theft. A poor person, because he has nothing, believes he has the right to steal. Another difficulty we have is that, since the poor people we are helping live such a fragile life, they often fail to understand the responsibility they have towards their families. At Akamasoa, throughout these 29 years, we have witnessed changes in people, but only over the long term; and after 29 years of efforts, many people still need to change. Another difficulty is to find enough food and school supplies for the 14 000 poor children so that they can attend school. One more difficulty we face is to create jobs for each family to help them to survive. These difficulties are challenges that we have been embracing in these 29 years and we are still standing with and among the poor people.
In your life as a missionary, you have met millions of people … I know it may be very difficult to choose, from among so many people, a single person; but is there a memory or an image from any encounter with a person that you will never forget and it will always remain with you?
I have a lot of memories of people I have encountered. Once we accepted at Akamasoa more than 80 families and each family had five or six children. We welcomed these families with the utmost serenity and spontaneity. I thought to myself, “These families are here; we have to make room for them.” We did this without panicking, with no pressure. And this experience has later become a source of strength for me. I also have in mind images of children at the garbage dump who were like angels searching for things in the garbage dump. This image of children in the garbage dump, beautiful like angels, will never leave my mind. In addition, another fond memory I cherish is when we celebrated the 25th year anniversary of Akamasoa: the limitless joy of 30 000 people, proud of their works, proud to have their heads up in front of government representatives and diplomats; proudly displaying their joy of life. The communion that we had on that day with the parents and children; this is yet another memory that will stay with me forever. We also have memories of sad moments related to the death of children and young mothers who died because of a lack of proper medicines.
What words or phrases would you use to describe Akamasoa for those persons who have never seen or hear about Akamasoa?
Joy, brotherhood, work, fight, and, most importantly, the happiness of our children because at Akamasoa we have children who used to live an inhuman life at the landfill and they are now real children. Of course, I will not fail to mention the Sunday Mass, which is a true celebration for all the people because everyone participates: we all pray, we dance, we sing in communion – it is an expression of gratitude to God for all the people of good will who have helped us.
Father Pedro, how do you see the best way to help the poor, the persons in need in the different areas: spiritual, emotional, physical, material?
The best way to help the poor is to respect them, to stand before them as an equal, without any masks, privilege, without any authority other than love and respect. And love will help you persevere in spite of the disappointments and the failures and the lack of honesty that we have to deal with almost every day. I can say that there is no magic formula to help the poor. In each country, culture and civilization, there will always be different gestures, different approaches – but these must all be dictated by love. Moreover, when we are moved by love, we can know that we chose the right path. And the most important thing is to choose the right path; each life is built one step at a time and one day at a time. Any effort to help and any movement of solidarity must exist only in order to give people courage and to give them the will to continue in spite of difficulty. This is not learned in some humanitarian guidebook. This is something we learn from our hearts, where there is love and the strength of the spirit. A person has a physical, emotional, spiritual identity; you cannot divide that identity between these different parts, the identity has to be considered as a whole: a person. While helping a person out of extreme poverty, we also have to help that person to be responsible and to be happy with their brothers and sisters and to understand that the spirit is what makes a person – the spirit also needs the strength and the grace of God.
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Because of the 400 years of the Vincentian charism – recently celebrated with the jubilee that gathered in Rome at the International Symposium to representatives of the numerous Vincentian Family Worldwide – the realization of the project “We cultivate integration: flowers and fruits in the land of asylum” was possible, thanks to the synergy between the Vincentian Family, the Social Cooperative Society “Tre Fontane”, the non-profit association Linaria and Mrs. Margherita Grasselli. The motto of the Jubilee: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” (Mt 25, 35) has in this initiative a concrete example of what it truly means to welcome.
The project consists in the improvement and development of approximately two hectares of uncultivated land, property of the Congregation of the Mission in Rome, in Via dei Capasso 30, in which special botanical varieties will be cultivated, which can respond to a market so far little known, but surely expanding. It will allow to qualify the professional skills of a group of asylum seekers and holders of international and humanitarian protection, who reside regularly in Rome, with the aim of their social and labor insertion in the city. An initiative that is, at the same time, an experiment due to its evident social, economic and environmental impact, with the potential to become a replicable pilot project in other national urban realities.
In the framework of the fifty-sixth session of the Commission for Social Development, entitled “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”, which will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 29 January to 7 February 2018, the Vincentians will have a word to say:
On Monday, 29 January 2018 (3:00 pm – 6:00 pm), Mr. Mark McGreevy OBE, Group Chief Executive of DePaul International and the founder of the Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH), will participate in a High‐level panel discussion on the priority theme “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”.
The Keynote speaker will be H.E. Mr. Juan Somavia, Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Chile, and former Special Adviser to the Secretary‐General on Interregional Policy Cooperation, former President of ECOSOC, and former Director‐General of the International Labor Organization (ILO).
On Wednesday, 31 January 2018 (1:15 pm – 2:30 pm), as a side event, the Vincentian Family at the United Nations, in Collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN, will present a panel entitled “A Systemic Approach to Eliminating Homelessness”
The keynote Speaker will be Mark McGreevy, CEO FamVin Homelessness Alliance.
For the press release please check on
One of the four common projects that Fr. Tomaž Mavrič has encouraged members of the Vincentian Family to participate in during this 400th Anniversary year is a project to end homelessness throughout the world, which includes caring for refugees, migrants, street people, displaced person, etc.
In a blog post from May 2016, Gloria M. Grandolini (with co-author, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez) shares “3 reasons why ‘Housing for All’ can happen by 2030:
Three billion people will need new housing by 2030. Can we achieve this goal? Here are three reasons why we can.
1. The annual investment to new housing needed represents just 0.7% of global GDP
We will need 300 million new homes by 2030, or roughly 21 million new homes per year, according to UN Population’s data.
Building a new decent home with durable materials and necessary utility connections and services costs about US$25,000, which translates into US$525 billion per year.
A more concrete way to understand the scale of this investment is in terms of the GDP.
Global GDP was just over US$73 trillion in 2015, according to the IMF. This means that the world, as a whole, would need to invest annually around 0.7% of the GDP for house construction to meet the housing goal.
2. Falling poverty and rising incomes make housing more affordable
Poverty levels are a quarter of what they were in 1990 and account for 9.6% of the global population living below the poverty line.
Today, a household income of $10 a day could translate into a possible loan of as much as $15,000 (assuming 2 earners, 15 year loan at 5% with 40% of income used to service loan), which is certainly sufficient to construct a decent house. Where fiscal capacity allows, this could be supplemented with land allocations or targeted smart subsidies for the neediest, combined with solid financial inclusion programs.
3. India has set a 2022 Housing for All goal
India faces one of the toughest housing challenges, but is taking an uncompromising ambitious approach. The country set its own goal of achieving Housing for All by 2022.
The India Low Income Housing Finance project is challenging lenders to innovate. The World Bank Group is working with the government and the National Housing Bank to extend access to loans to people working in the informal sector, or those who don’t possess a formal property title but still have some form of property rights which can be used as collateral. Lenders are using new technology to better serve borrowers and developers are looking at new construction models to bring down costs. But ultimately, it’s the prospect of being able to serve a huge untapped market that is driving the private sector to innovate.
What works in India has tremendous potential to be effective in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines and many countries in Africa where reconciling informal incomes with formal lending is still a struggle.
If the goal is possible, the question is how?
Having an efficient and inclusive financial system, a stable macro economy, access to long-term funding and strong land rights are all prerequisites to creating proper conditions for housing finance.
However, housing and infrastructure construction also requires a vast, long-term investment that governments can’t shoulder alone.
In addition to investing in construction, building materials and private housing development, the World Bank Group is helping countries address housing challenges by improving city planning, building regulations and access to land, investing in pro-poor infrastructure and slum upgrading, and strengthening residential rental markets.
The 7th Global Housing Finance conference, which got underway today, focuses on finding solutions to make housing more affordable, including mobilizing private sector financing to meet the housing needs.
While the global housing needs may be daunting, the #Housing4All goal is reachable if we work together and innovate.
- Are you currently doing anything in your branch of the Vincentian Family to end homelessness?
- Does your branch of our family have anything planned going forward?
Source: The World Bank Website
Originally published at famvin.org.