Catholics in nearly a dozen parishes in South Korea have joined hands to donate to a social welfare program to support their poor, needy neighbors badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Sharing Warehouse is a social charity program of Daegu Archdiocese covering 11 parishes that seeks to collect money and other materials to supply daily essentials and groceries to needy people who are deprived of state-run welfare schemes, reported Catholic Times.
The initiative started in June last year when the coronavirus pandemic was raging in the country and across the world. It started with suggestions and support from Archbishop Thaddeus Hwan-ki Cho of Daegu.
The prelate said he wanted to reach out to “the blind spot of welfare” in the communities.
While many poor visit parish halls to collect daily essentials, members of the parish’s welfare group also make door-to-door visits to poor neighbors in their communities to deliver charity boxes.
Anyone can donate money, food or daily essentials to the Sharing Warehouse to share with their neighbors.
At the beginning, parish and church-based welfare groups filled the charity boxes, but soon small donations from parishioners, priests and religious started to flow in.
Andrew Park, director of the office of social welfare in Daegu Archdiocese, said the Church has successfully promoted “a culture of sharing” among local communities.
“It is becoming a culture where people not only deliver goods but also talk with neighbors in need and share their hearts,” he said.
Some parishes have different target groups for social welfare.
In Naedang Parish, Catholics mainly support elderly people living a lonely life with daily essentials and become friends with them. Songhyeon Parish has installed a shelter for poor residents. Hyeonggok Parish uses exchange vouchers and provides door-to-door delivery for neighbors who cannot come in person.
Father Choi Gwang-gyeong, head of Hyeonggok Parish's social welfare department, said the welfare program has proved vital for people who suffered badly due to the pandemic.
"Livelihoods have suddenly become difficult for people, but many neighbors couldn’t come out openly to share their difficulties. They remained in a blind spot of the welfare scheme,” Father Choi said.
South Korea is an economic powerhouse with the 11th-largest economy in the world in 2020, according to a US News report in 2020.
However, the Organization for Economic Cooperation reported in 2019 that about 16.7 percent of 52 million South Koreans live below the poverty line, ranking it fifth among 33 developed nations for relative income poverty.