Job losses in pandemic: Catholics, Buddhists team up to offer a ‘Mother’s Meal’ to Macau’s most affected

Marco Carvalho

The Claretian community in Macau, which launched the Mother’s Meal program in 2020 to provide food to poor families that were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, joined forces once again with a Buddhist institution – the Sammappadhāna Buddhist Meditation Center – to help the most needy.  The two institutions distributed food baskets to almost 100 people facing acute food insecurity.

The drive, the third-of-its-kind organized by the Claretian missionaries in partnership with the Sammappadhāna Centre, is a perfect example of an inter-religious joint effort. The initiative was aimed at non-resident workers who were temporary laid off by their employers, Father Jijo Kandamkulathy told O Clarim.

“We started this food distribution program right after the Covid-19 pandemic started, under the flag of the Mother’s Meal program. After most of the Filipino migrants, who lost their jobs, left Macau, we decided to discontinue the distribution of hot meals but we still continued to offer those in need of food packets once a month,” the Indian priest recalls.

“Earlier this month, this food drive was aimed at low-income migrant workers, particularly those that only get a wage when they work. Currently, in Macau, there are quite a few workers who work for half a month and, then, they are out of work for the other half. They work for 15 days and only get paid for those 15 days. We organized this initiative with this category of people in mind,” Father Kandamkulathy adds.

The Claretian Missionaries and the Sammappadhāna Buddhist Meditation Centre distributed a grand total of 100 food packets. The food drive, which was coordinated by the Catholic Pastoral Centre, sought to offer comfort and joy to those that are still suffering badly with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Ever since the Mother’s Meal program was instituted, we have kept in touch with the Sammappadhāna Buddhist Centre. We’ve been exploring new ways to work together, but this isn’t exactly a Christmas-driven initiative. It is a crisis-response measure that was induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, care was taken to wish those who received the baskets a ‘Merry Christmas’. Christmas was something that was mentioned,” the Claretian missionary explains. “The packets included noodles, vegetables and other products, valued at over 100 patacas,” Father Kandamkulathy said.

The Mother’s Meal initiative was created by the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the weeks following the declaration of the Covid-19 pandemic by the World Health Organization. The food distribution program, which has reached thousands of people in countries such as India, Ethiopia and the Philippines, has taken on various formats over the last two-and-a-half years and it can change again, now that Macau is learning how it can live with COVID-19.

“Over the last six months, we have only lent a helping hand to mothers with young children under their care. We offered help to mothers with babies who are stranded in Macau. Their children do not have passports or travel documents, so they cannot leave and go anywhere. We offer them food for their children, diapers and supplements for themselves,” Father Kandamkulathy says.

“We will assess the situation after this new phase, in which measures are being relaxed, and we will try to understand what the situation is in Macau. We are, however, considering putting an end to this food distribution service. If we still find babies in need, mothers who need our help, we will continue to reach them and help them as best as we can. The end of the pandemic is not the end of the Mother’s Meal program,” the Claretian missionary assures.