Feeding La Antigua’s Homeless

Behind the market, next to the soccer field is the Comedor Hermano Pedro, a simple building with a very important function. Here, every day except Sunday, food is provided for La Antigua’s homeless.  

Most days’ provisions are simple: a bowl of porridge. But, on Wednesdays and Fridays Comedor Hermano Pedro collaborates with other organizations and donors who provide the resources for a proper lunch. Por Eso, a Dutch non-profit, is one of these organizations and every month they serve up a much-needed meal. In November, they invited me to join them for the day.

The morning started at a little past eight. As my host, Marjolijn, and I walked towards Comedor Hermano Pedro, she was greeted with smiles and hellos from the people who call this area by the market their home. At the comedor, we joined Francesca, a very valuable employee of Por Eso who also runs their clinic, and her daughters, who volunteer. The group of us headed to the market to buy the ingredients for that day’s meal: a seafood stew chuck full of fish, crab, caracol, shrimp and vegetables. By the time we had lugged all the ingredients back to the comedor’s kitchen, it was full of women who volunteer their time and skills in the kitchen. Most of the volunteers are from La Antigua and are members of Iglesia Hermano Pedro, but joining them that day were two Dutch women who have been volunteering in La Antigua on and off for six years. “It’s really cool [volunteering here]. When everyone comes in, sometimes over 150 people, they all get a plate of food, and they really enjoy the meal. It’s really well organized,” said Dutch volunteer Maaiken.

At around 11:20 AM, with the caldo de pescado bubbling away, the rice steaming, the tortillas hot and the horchata poured, diners started lining up outside the comedor. The meal is not a handout; the policy is that everyone who eats must contribute Q1, and a volunteer sells tickets at the door that will be exchanged at the table for the meal. When the doors opened at 11:30 AM, the guests took their seats and patiently waited to be served. On a regular Wednesday or Friday, 150-200 people will eat here. On the day I visited, most of the diners were middle-aged and young men, but there were also some women with their children in tow.

The volunteers dished out the stew and served it up hot, receiving big smiles and thank yous for the food and their work in the kitchen. As people finished their meals and took their leave, others entered the dining room with their bright pink tickets and were served until the food ran out.

Those who are especially hungry can wait until everyone has exchanged their tickets, then if there is anything left over, can receive a second helping. On that day, the rice ran out, and most of the fish, seafood, and vegetables had been served, but there was still some broth left for those who wanted seconds and for a few late arrivals.

In December, Por Eso will sponsor its regular lunch, plus collaborate on Christmas dinner with Hermano Pedro a few days before the 25th (At the time of writing, the exact date had not yet been decided.) Last year at the comedor, they served a traditional Guatemalan Christmas dinner of tamales and ponche, as well as handed out gifts to the men, women and children of La Antigua who have no home in which to celebrate the holidays. This year, Por Eso will do the same, and hopefully there will be enough food to fill the bowls of everyone who attends.

If you would like to volunteer or make a donation, please contact Por Eso at 5470-6288 or 4720-6944. For more information about Por Eso and all the work that they do, visit their website:  poreso.org.

 

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