Cordoba, Argentina—Zakat Foundation of America this week set in motion the opening of its first office in Latin America to expand and streamline its growing relief work throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean.
“We’ve implemented emergency relief and Ramadan food distribution programs [in the region] since 2011,” said Veronica De Pasquale, Zakat Foundation’s Latin America Programs Coordinator. “With an office in a key South American location, Zakat Foundation hopes to address these needs in a more efficient and faster way.”
Zakat Foundation leadership chose Cordoba — Argentina’s second-largest city — as the site for its Latin America Caribbean (LAC) office because its infrastructure, resources, and location make it an ideal hub for program coordination, aid distribution and travel for medical and relief teams in the area.
“Zakat Foundation has had a presence in the LAC region for a long time,” said Zakat Foundation Programs Coordinator Leticia Escamilla, “particularly in the Dominican Republic, where Veronica has made a lot of progress in education and women and girl empowerment programs, which she started and developed.”
De Pasquale, who is from Argentina, discovered and helped Zakat Foundation’s major aid effort during the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. The organization’s donors have supported an uninterrupted, critical food distribution program for Haitians in the eight years since.
Zakat Foundation leaders see the Cordoba expansion as the next step in strengthening their donors’ humanitarian presence throughout the LAC area. This importantly includes Puerto Rico, which shares a cultural, linguistic, and geographic heritage with its neighbors and still suffers from Hurricane Maria’s destruction after eight months, on the cusp of a new storm season.
Need forms the only Zakat Foundation criteria for relief. Its people have established strong working partnerships and a volunteer base with other relief groups, including local churches. In Haiti, the What If? Foundation manages the Zakat Foundation’s ongoing supplemental food program. For almost a decade, the Zakat Foundation’s Ramadan food distribution programs have fed thousands of hungry families every year throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.
Zakat Foundation has forged extensive relief partner networks in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia and Venezuela. One of Zakat Foundation supporters’ earliest relief efforts in the LAC region, in cooperation with local governments and charities, rushed mattresses and food to more than 150 families in La Paz, Bolivia, who lost their homes to massive flooding and mudslides in March 2011. In April 2016, Zakat Foundation supporters sped emergency food and supplies to Ecuadorians of the Manabi province, struck by a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
“South America has enjoyed a certain level of growth in past decades, but instability continues to ravage the region and affect the most vulnerable,” De Pasquale said. “Poverty, violence and inequality have been on the rise, as well as informal employment and a devastating inflation rate that mainly affects the lower classes who are unable to foresee and prepare for drastic changes in prices, including basic food items.”
Zakat Foundation leaders believe the Cordoba office gives its donors a strategic humanitarian boost to build on already thriving women’s and girl’s vocational empowerment programs in the region and extend computer and language training for the area’s young adults.
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