90% of Cozumel’s economy is based on tourism. Nearly all local families are directly or indirectly affected by the shutdown of tourism, beyond the immediate health impact of COVID-19. Many families are out of work or hours have been cut to part-time. We don’t expect this situation to change until international flights have been restored and cruise ships are arriving on a regular basis, likely months from now.
Centro de Restauración Vida Abundante church pastors, Salomon and Mariela, along with their three teenage sons (Jefte, Jabes and Salomon) initiated a breakfast program to support families out of work. Although the church is closed for services and other activities, they are preparing and serving meals to those in the community. None of the families participating are members of the church. The church is located in the heart of Colonia Emiliano Zapata, a neighborhood with some of the highest rates of suicides, theft, addiction challenges and family issues on the island.
Pastor Mariela on the meal program “We had a lot of sadness when we closed the church for the pandemic. Sometimes at the time we don’t understand God’s plans until later. We knew it was time to serve in another way in the midst of bad times (well, we have always known) but it hadn’t presented itself to this extent . . . “
Friends of Cozumel provides behind the scenes support by receiving donations, shopping for some meals and occasionally helping prepare meals to give the pastors a break.
3-4 meals are provided weekly for 20-30 families representing about 120 persons on average for each of the meals. Since March 30, they have served meals 16 days. The budget has been raised to $1,300 pesos per day ( or $60 USD; about $0.50 per person).
Social distance guidelines are marked by cones outside the church, only one family member may come, must wear a mask and bring their own plate to take the food home. They arrive sometimes three hours before serving and patiently wait in line.
The church has received donations of 110 kilos (242 lbs) of fresh tortillas from a local tortilleria as well as a few other food donations, but the majority of the funding has come from donors who want to help the people of Cozumel. At this time we have enough financial support to continue the meal program until the end of June.
The government recently distributed food/supplies boxes to most (but not all) families so the meal program may be suspended temporarily for a short time when families receive government despensas so they can use the dry goods they received and to stretch our resources further for the meal program.
Thanks for following along with our activities, and if you haven’t had the chance – read though our previous blog posts. Our site also features details on how to make a donation, or donate via PayPal.