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Advent 2023 newsletter


Melissa & Peter Altman and Ann Greig, El Salvador

Pete with a younger Eli and other children during a Posada procession in 2015

In preparing for Christmas, many people in our communities in El Salvador participate in Posadas. Posadas are a reenactment of the Holy Family’s efforts to find lodging in Bethlehem. The people knock on a door and sing a song, asking for lodging but are told that there is no room and to move on.

Eventually, after learning that it is Mary, the Queen of Heaven, who needs a place to lay her head, the doors are thrown open and everyone joyfully enters the house in song.

Children drinking strawberry soymilk at their kindergarten in El Cedro, El Salvador

As we celebrate Advent and the Posadas, we are reminded of how 2023 began for the Soy Nutrition Program. Ann, Melissa and Pete spent most of 2022 preparing to move the program from San Ramón, where Ann had operated it for almost 30 years, to Zaragoza, where Melissa and Pete are now continuing the work.

We started looking for a suitable location in Zaragoza in the fall of 2022, but there was nothing available for us to rent. We enlisted the help of many people we know in Zaragoza, but every lead was a dead-end. As time passed, anxiety grew because we were well aware that the communities we serve were counting on us for food assistance. Finally, in February we found a space to rent. Much like in the Gospel, the space was far from ideal, but with a lot of effort we were able to transform it into a suitable space for the Soy Nutrition Program and to get to our work of feeding those in need.

By the end of 2023 the Soy Program will have:

  • Provided over 25,000 servings of soy milk and over 25,000 nutritious biscuits to impoverished children and elderly.
  • Distributed more than 16,000 pounds of beans, rice, and other staple foods to over 250 families experiencing food insecurity.
  • Trained over 100 mothers on how to prepare more nutritious meals for their families.

Children at the Patronato Lidia Coggiola being measured to see how much they’ve grown this year.

None of this would have been possible without the help of our Salvadoran collaborators and without the support of those who have generously donated to the program. When our beneficiaries thank us for the much-needed food they receive, we are always quick to point out that it is our donors that make this program possible.

As we look forward to 2024, food insecurity will continue to be the principal challenge for too many families in our communities. The price of food keeps going up, and the families in our program have an average household income of less than $250 per month.

Our ability to respond to the crisis of food insecurity in El Salvador depends on you. As the concluding lyric from the Christmas hymn Good King Wenceslas says: “Ye, who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.”

We wish you and your families a joyous Advent, Christmas and New Year filled with blessings!

Ann, Melissa, and Peter

Please consider supporting our mission work at the Soy Project with a donation through the link below. You can follow us on Facebook @Soy Nutrition Program El Salvador and Instagram @soy_nutrition_elsalvador.

We also invite you to walk with us as our “COMPANIONS IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, click on the Become a Companion in Mission button belowThank you so much for your generosity! 

Melissa and Peter Altman
Melissa and Peter Altman, with their two children, Eli and Evey, are serving as Maryknoll lay missioners in El Salvador.