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Pedro Pablo Opeka - Missionary of the “garbage people" in Madagascar

Updated on July 10, 2012

"Poverty can be overcome by imitating Jesus", famous missionary says.

Pedro Opeka (June 29, 1948) is a priest of the Congregation of the Mission (ordained September 28, 1975 in Buenos Aires) who has served in Madagascar since 1970. He was born in San Martin, Argentina, a suburb of Buenos Aires, to parents who had emigrated from Slovenia to escape the totalitarian regime of Tito. He learned the trade of masonry from his father, a mason, and he was also a talented footballer.

He speaks Slovenien, Spanish, French, Italian, English and Malagasy.

On several occasions, Fr. Pedro Opeka has been proposed as a candidate for for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has been named "Knight of the National Order of Madagascar" (1996), awarded the Legion of Honor from Slovenia (1996), appointed as an Officer of National Order of Merit in France (1998), Missionary of the Jubilee Year, in Italy (2000), and awarded in the United States for his humanitarian work (2001).In 2009 Opeka received the Golden Order for Services, which is the highest national decoration of Slovenia

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry nominated Slovenian missionary Pedro Opeka for the 2012-2013 King Baudouin African Development Prize, citing his "extraordinary humanitarian work and care" for people living in rubbish dumps of Madagascar's capital Antananarivo.

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Early life

Opeka was born in Argentina, in San Martín, a suburb of Buenos Aires, to parents of Argentine Slovene parents.His father was from Begunje near Cerknica in Inner Carniola, his mother from Velike Lasce in Lower Carniola; they immigrated to Argentina escaping from the Communist Yugoslav regime of Josip Broz Tito.

Pedro grew up in the streets of Buenos Aires. Already as a child, he worked with his father as a bricklayer. At 15, he decided to become a priest and enter the seminary of the Lazarists. At 20, he went to Ljubljana in Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia), to further his training. Two years later, he went to Madagascar where he worked as a bricklayer in the parishes of the Lazarists.

He finished his studies at the Catholic Institute of Paris. He met the Taizé Community and travelled all over Europe.

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Mission in Madagascar and Creation of Akamasoa

On 28 September 1975, Opeka was ordained priest in Buenos Aires and was nominated responsible of a rural parish in the South-East of Madagascar, Vangaindrano.

In 1989, his superiors nominated him director of a seminary in Antananarivo, the capital. But when he saw the dump from the hills of the city, he discovered people rummaging among garbage to find something to eat and sleeping in huts made of hemp propped between mountains of waste. Pedro Opeka began talking to them, to convince them that they could leave that misery and abuse. This is how Akamasoa ("good friends" in the local language) started.

Creation of Akamasoa

Opeka created a local non-governmental organization called Akamasoatwenty thousands people, nine thousands children, of which seven thousands go to school, namely, four thousands families. Houses have been constructed, as well as schools, clinics, and centres for training and production. Jobs have been created, thanks to the stone and gravel quarries, to the craft and embroidery workshops, to a compost centre next to the rubbish tip to divide and sort the rubbish, to the jobs in agriculture and construction (bricklayers, carpenters, cabinet makers, operators and street pavers).

Akamasoa lies about 12 km from the center of Antananarivo, on the road in the direction of Tamatave.

Videos related to Akamasoa

The most urgent projects to support

- Build a water cistern of over 180,000 litres to fight the chronic scarcity of water in Akamasoa;

- Build up a new sheltering centre on 4 floors to keep on helping the poor in search of food, clothes, blankets, medicines;

- Keep on building houses to provide accommodation to families in serious state of poverty;

- Open an infirmary in the South of Madagascar (Vangaindrano) to help women to give birth and fight malaria, dysentery and other serious illnesses.

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Try thinking how important your gift is...

To give you an idea of how Friends of Father Pedro will use your donation:

20 EUR are enough to support the scholar expenses of a whole year for one child.

35 EUR can pay the salary of a teacher in Akamasoa.

200 EUR will enable one family to find a shelter in Akamasoa, providing them blankets, clothes, soap, pans and cookware.

4,000 EUR will permit the construction of a brick house for a family of 5-7 people.

20,000 EUR can be used to build a water cistern in Akamasoa, with a capacity of 182 m3 to guarantee drinking water for all the inhabitants of the village.

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How you can help

Your support can help improve the conditions of living of thousands of families and children in Madagascar. The work of Father Pedro is focused on the poor people from the capital that he shelters in the village of Akamasoa, but also on families in the South of Madagascar who do not have access to sanitary services and prime necessity goods.

Thanks to your participation, the association 'Friends of Father Pedro' supports Akamasoa through active projects of development, in health, education, emergency, raising awareness and putting pressure on the government and the institutions.

Trailer for the documentary film - Good Friend - Pedro Opeka

He said:

"Everyone on this earth, everyone on this planet, will be brothers and sisters and (will) help one another."

"In this world where there is so much wealth, there should not be thousands of people who live in hunger. This is an injustice that cries out to heaven."

"My message is one of solidarity, of sharing what we have, because the wealth we have has been given to us to share, because what I don't need goes to waste. There is an Indian proverb that says, 'Why save something when there is a neighbor who needs it?'"

"I can say today, it is possible to overcome poverty. It is possible to return to the poor their dignity as children of God. I live amidst a people in poverty, a people living in extreme poverty, and with dignity, faith and compassion we lift ourselves out of this extreme poverty."

Do you know him?

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    • profile image

      dream1983 5 years ago

      Great lens, nice job! Squidlike

    • profile image

      Miska29 5 years ago

      Special man... he works with poor people... thanks him for all good thinks...

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 6 years ago

      I like Pedro. This lens is great :)

    • Scriber1 LM profile image

      Scriber1 LM 6 years ago

      Simply inspired and inspiring. Wonderful lens to be sure!

    • profile image

      Angel_Lou 6 years ago

      Great lens indeed!

    • profile image

      sujathayder 6 years ago

      woooww..great lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i didn't heard about Pedro Opeka until now.

      I i respect his work!

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      Have not heard of Pedro Opeka before, but can see he is doing a good work.