By France News Team (Originally in French)
In Ventimiglia in Northern Italy near the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) border of southern France, a volunteer-run shelter is located that has a capacity to house about 100 people. Most of the refugees there are families and single women from Afghanistan and different countries in Africa, such as Eritrea, Mali and Sudan. The shelter is sponsored by and sits alongside the local Saint Anthony Catholic Church, which has not only served meals to thousands of refugees during the past summer, but has also allowed them to temporarily sleep inside the church when there was an influx of many new arrivals. In addition, since most refugees are Muslims, the church has offered them the use of their facility for prayer.
Following Supreme Master Ching Hai’s loving instruction to help those in need, on October 28, 2016, one of our French Association members visited the shelter to assess their guests’ situation and inquire about needed items. Afterwards, with EUR 2,658 provided by Master, a team of our Association members in France purchased various vegan foods, clothing items and daily supplies according to the requests, and delivered them on October 29.
Our team also shared Master’s Alternative Living flyers in Arabic, French and English, flyers on the benefits of the vegan diet, and five copies of Master’s book, The Noble Wilds, which were happily received by the volunteer group Ventimiglia CONfine Solidale, who posted our vegan food and clothing gifts on their Facebook page. In addition, we offered some vegan protein products to their kitchen staff to sample. Their staff was so impressed by the tasty and nutritious delectables that they allowed us to prepare a vegan meal on November 6 for the refugees in the shelter.
We were very pleased to have met such a group of saintly souls who embody the true spirit of loving thy neighbor. Our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation goes out to the Saint Anthony Catholic Church, which continues to offer their hospitality to those most in need irrespective of race, color or religion.
Cooking for Refugees in Ventimiglia, Northern Italy – November 6, 2016
On Sunday, November 6, our Association members in France returned to the Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Ventimiglia, Northern Italy in order to deliver and serve a vegan lunch to about 100 people staying in the refugee center there. The food consisted of homemade falafel balls with vegetables and steamed banana cake. Additional items, such as vegetable cooking oil, sugar, potatoes, cocoa powder for making hot chocolate, biscuits, shoes, socks and blankets, were also contributed by our Association members. The meal and these supplies were much appreciated and some of the recipients made comments that the food presentation looked so lovely.
The meal was prepared beforehand at our nearby meditation center. When we arrived at the refugee center, our Association members were warmly welcomed with smiling faces from volunteers as well as from the people who are temporarily staying there. One of the volunteer workers commented that The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association is such a wonderful group, doing a good job, to which they received a reply that they are also wonderful people doing a good job.
We met another volunteer group called Emmaus International, founded by the French priest, Abbé Pierre. Their workers, Beatrice and Daniele, kindly helped us to arrange the vegan meal platters for our brothers and sisters staying at the refugee center. Plates for 80 adults and 20 children were prepared in total.
Arabic versions of Alternative Living flyers, which contain a heartfelt plea for being vegan, were shared while the people were waiting for their lunch to be served. Also distributed were Harms and Benefits flyers describing the harms of meat and milk consumption, drug abuse, and tobacco and alcohol use, in addition to the benefits of a vegan diet, of alcohol bans, drug abstinence and treatment, and smoking bans. One of the volunteer workers enthusiastically took a flyer to give to her husband to help him stop smoking.
Although we did not stay for the lunch, we sincerely hope that those who partook in the meal enjoyed its nutritional content and pray that they felt God’s love and blessing taking care of them.
Our Association members will return next week to prepare a vegan lunch and dinner, followed by an entertainment program of a musical video screening.
We humbly thank God for the opportunity to serve our fellow sisters and brothers in need. And we pray that the refugees know that they are much loved, comforted and helped by Heaven always.
Continued Loving Assistance to Refugees in Ventimiglia, Northern Italy – November 12 to 13, 2016
On November 12, members of The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association in France returned to bring more loving, vegan food to the refugees staying at the Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Ventimiglia, Northern Italy. The lunch included fried rice, soya and wheat protein slices, veggies, corn pancakes, pumpkin and cinnamon patties with sweet sauce, and apples. About 50 meal plates were served. The numbers vary as many of the refuges staying here try to move onwards in their journey to their desired destination.
We returned the following evening on November 13, which happened to the eve of a supermoon, the closest the Moon has been to the Earth since 1948. The vegan dinner meal that our team prepared consisted of mashed potatoes with corn and peas, couscous and veggies, vegan omelet slices filled with vegetables, vanilla cake, and cinnamon spiced soya milk tea. The warmhearted local volunteers were always willing to lend a helping hand in serving these compassionate, vegan meals to our friends in need. One of the volunteers, Francesca, is a vegan, too.
Tables were arranged by the volunteers and places were prepared with paper napkins, eating utensils and cups. The refugees were served like special guests in a restaurant. The Italian people here are so respectful that the women and children were first seated inside the eating room until the places were full, and then the men sat in the outside but covered area. While everyone was enjoying their meal, Loving the Silent Tears, the musical based on Supreme Master Ching Hai’s poetry, was played in the background.
It was truly wonderful to be part of a community of volunteers selflessly working as one heart to help bring comfort and love to these refugees. We pray that Heaven’s blessings create happiness and security for all people in search of a peaceful life.
Serving Unique Vegan Dishes to Refugees in Ventimiglia, Northern Italy November 15, 18 and 19, 2016
Our Association members in France visited the refugees being housed at the loving Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Ventimiglia, Northern Italy on November 15, 18 and 19, 2016, to bring lovingly presented nutritious, vegan food.
On the first day, we served “Yin and Yang” Rice, “Sun Ocean” soya mince, potato, carrot and chickpea vegetable broth, biscuits and fresh apples. On the second day, we served “Life-Sustaining” noodles, “Heaven’s Melody” mashed potatoes, “Circle of Life” spicy Chinese cabbage, corn “Flower Power” pancakes and fresh red apple halves. On the last day, we prepared a hearty, vegan lunch of flavorful couscous, steamed buns, potato, carrot and soya protein soup, golden vanilla cake and apples. Some commented that the soya protein tasted so good that they could not believe it was made from soya beans.
During the visits, we played Supreme Master Ching Hai’s vegan cooking shows, “A Gift of Love” with subtitles in Arabic and Italian, while everyone enjoyed their meals. Alternative Living flyers in Arabic were also handed out to interested recipients. We noticed that the refugees seem to be happier and happier every time we returned to bring meals. We pray that God’s blessings shower upon these refugees. May they soon find a stable and secure life that they all so deserve.
Serving More Vegan Meals to Refugees in Ventimiglia, Northern Italy – November 21, 26 and 27, 2016
At the end of November 2016, our Association members in France delivered delicious vegan meals three times to the migrant refugee shelter hosted by the Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Ventimiglia, Italy. Both the refugees and the volunteers liked our plant-based dishes such as Chinese noodles, fried vegan protein, vegan macaroni and cheese, as well as vegan muffins and fruit. We also distributed Alternative Living flyers and shared information on the benefits of the vegan diet. One of the Italian volunteers, Francesca who is also a vegan, helped hand out the flyers to her friends. She told us happily that one of her friends is becoming a vegan after receiving the Alternative Living flyer and listening to her explanation.
Celebrating the New Year with Refugees in in Ventimiglia, Northern Italy – November 30-December 31, 2016
As part of the effort to support migrant refugees, our Association members in France had served vegan meals about twice per week in November and December 2016 to the migrant refugee shelter hosted by Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Ventimiglia. Our food was not only healthy and delicious, but also diverse, combining western and eastern cuisines. The volunteers of the refugee shelter even requested us to cook additional vegan meals.
In the shelter, there were new arriving refugees while some were leaving. Many of them were from Syria and Sudan, and are Muslim. They were concerned whether the food is halal. After hearing that our food was vegan and the vegan meat was made from soya, grains and vegetables, they were very happy and enjoyed eating the meal.
We took the opportunity to share our food with the churchgoers as well, introducing them to the compassionate plant-based diet. We were happy to learn that some of them were already vegetarians or vegans. We also gave out information on Loving Hut Menton, which is only 30 minutes drive away.
On December 23, we served the refugees dinner, which included vegan dishes such as sandwiches, spring rolls, Chinese dumplings, vegetables with vegan mutton, fried rice, and oranges. As it was close to Christmas, we decorated a dish with a Christmas tree design, and wore Christmas hats to create a festive atmosphere. There was a group of approximately 10 student volunteers helping at the shelter. They were very happy to enjoy the vegan meal and receive the Alternative Living flyers. The priest of the church came that evening to see the refugees, and thanked us for serving the meal. We also thanked him for helping the refugees.
On the New Year Eve, December 31, we served an array of vegan dishes to the refugees. The dishes were decorated with colorful images and words, such as “Happy New Year,” “Spring” in Chinese characters and “Veg World.” A person from the media who was there was happy to take a video and photographs of the dishes, and to try our vegan food. We gave her flyers on veganism and world peace.
Our Association members were grateful to have the chance to help the refugees and spread the veggie news. May the new year bring peace to all.
Expenditures by The Supreme Master Ching Hai for Refugee Relief Work in Italy
Food (cooking oil, pasta, canned tomatoes, canned beans, organic baby fruit puree food, baby cereal, biscuits, salt, sugar, bread, sweets, chocolate, hot chocolate powder, vegan chocolate spread and pumpkins) and supplies (warm undergarments, socks, bed sheets, dish cloths, garbage bags, spoons, forks, cleaning detergents, etc.)
Food (rice, couscous, fruits, vegetables, tofu, flour, noodles, olive mustard, curry powder, miso, soya bean, vegan pepperoni, cocoa powder, vegan biscuits, sugar, cooking oil, homemade falafel and vegan cake)
EUR 3,933.74 (US$4,231.78)*
October 29, 2016
November 6, 2016
November 12-13, 2016
November 15, 18-19, 2016
November 21, 26-27, 2016
November 30-December 31, 2016