From May 1-7, 2018, Mark McGreevy and I, Anja Bohnsack, went to visit Madagascar to meet and learn from Fr. Pedro Opeka. Over the past three decades he has created Akamasoa– a project aimed at supporting people living in slums by providing them with the tools, opportunities, and community needed to change the lives of their families for generations to come. Akamasoa has helped over 500,000 people and is continuing to increase its reach by developing ever-new communities across Madagascar.
During our visit, we found Fr. Pedro to be a true inspiration– a visionary leader whose approach is eye-opening. While we often think about how to develop a project, how to make it sustainable, how to make a real difference to the people we are here to serve– we sometimes lose focus on the most vital aspect: to actually do it. Almost three decades ago, Fr. Pedro saw a need and started his work; started his path with steadfast determination. He told us stories about the humble beginnings of his project; of small groups of a few dozen people coming to his Mass. He told us about the time it took him to convince families to even just consider moving away from the garbage dumps they lived on. And stories about the raging violence and crime, the lack of community, trust or opportunities. All of these we knew to be true, but they were difficult to imagine today, seeing thousands of people singing and dancing whilst listening to his words. He had found a way to help them create a better life for themselves and their children; a future that had once been difficult to envisage.
For us, these few days not only taught us more about how to develop projects that are truly connected to the community, with people living in slums, but also about how to bring the words of St. Vincent to life through the work we do with the poorest of our brothers and sisters.
If you would like to find out more about Akamasoa, please visit www.madagascar-foundation.org
We are also extremely pleased to announce that Fr. Pedro has agreed that Madagascar become one of the pilot countries for the 13 Houses Campaign of the Famvin Homeless Alliance. More news will follow!