Caritas young leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean, England, and Canada gather in Panama to participate in the 34th World Youth Day. They are Caritas leaders in volunteer coordination, peace and reconciliation, campaigning and emergency response, and together they share a common desire to promote faith in action. Young people from Cáritas Panamá welcome the group and accompany them through some of their most engaging projects.
Denia Manguelis, lead coordinator of the Pastoral Social-Cáritas Panamá said, “It is fantastic and at the same time humbling to see how these young talents willingly and inspiringly put their abilities to good use at the service of the most marginalized in the communities.”
The group visited Fundacion Casa Hogar Buen Samaritano, a care home for people affected by HIV. “The relationship we have built up with those we support has become an enriching addition to the lives of all involved, including our young volunteers,” said Fr Patrick Hanssens, Director of Pastoral Social-Cáritas Panamá.
The group met Analee, a 20-year old Panamanian woman who arrived at the center two years earlier pregnant and with HIV. At that time, she explains, the law obliged pregnant women with HIV to terminate their pregnancy. Her doctor told her that she would lose her baby if she did not start treatment immediately. With no resources but a strong faith and determination, Analee could finally afford to go through her treatment thanks to the center. Today she is the mother of a two-year-old girl.
Asked about what she would like to say to the pilgrims arriving in Panama for World Youth Day, Analee promptly answers that “connecting with others and cherishing their presence in her life has made a world of difference. We are all vulnerable and having people who love you makes you feel like starting all over again.”
Caritas young leaders also visited Pastoral de Movilidad Humana, a refugee center that assists migrants and refugees in search of a more dignified life.
Jorge Ayala, responsible for the running of the center, explains some key facts and figures about migration in Panama. He encourages people to have a proactive interaction and meet halfway “at a human level, where we all belong, so we understand each other better.” Caritas young leaders and migrants from the center share their stories and exchange posters and photos from Share the Journey, Caritas global campaign on the culture of encounter.
The group still has a week-long program ahead of them. The program provides a space for reflections and inspirations on how together young people of Caritas can make a positive and lasting difference in the world.