25 February 2024

Self-Denial 2024: 'Soup of love' in Salto

Lieutenants José and Keyla's story

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Lieutenants José and Keyla share their experience of their first appointment in Uruguay for the 2024 Self-Denial Appeal.

This year’s Self-Denial Appeal runs from 4 February to 3 March with a focus on the life-changing impact of officers across the globe. This week we are in Salto. Lieutenants José and Keyla are from Bolivia. They trained as officers in Argentina, and Uruguay is their first appointment.

‘We entered the training college in 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic. After we left, we came here, and now we are working in Salto,’ explains Keyla. ‘Salto is an incredible city. It is small, but it’s very warm. The people are very friendly, it feels a lot like family.’

There are significant differences in the countries that make up South America, but almost all celebrate Carnival. Uruguay is the most politically stable country in South America, but it’s also expensive to live here. That’s not a problem for people with decent jobs, but unemployment has been stubbornly high for years, so people who fall on hard times can get caught up in a cycle of poverty that’s difficult to break out of.

To support people who are struggling, The Salvation Army has been running food distribution programmes. Every Friday, José heads to the shops to collect ingredients. The food is all donated by local businesses, and in the afternoon volunteers from the corps get together to cook it up.

‘We prepare the food with a lot of love,’ asserts José. ‘The volunteers who come and prepare it are giving their time and showing love and, in that way, we call it Soup of Love. We have this programme for people who really need it.’

The team also has a well-established partnership with the local authority and give out food each weekday morning. For the last few weeks, the Army has been helping some of Salto’s other residents.

The river that separates Uruguay from Argentina is prone to flooding. But a few weeks back, the water reached new highs. More than 3,000 people have had their homes flooded. The Army is providing food packages to support families in temporary accommodation. José and Keyla are well known here because of their weekly Bible club.

‘On Saturdays we dedicate ourselves to the young people in Salto,’ Keyla explains. ‘They are a beautiful group that does many activities. The majority come from broken homes.’

A photo of Lieutenant Keyla in Salto, Uruguay

The work with young people has become more important because, since the pandemic, the youth suicide rate has increased significantly.

‘In this place they can find friendship, love, understanding,’ she continues. ‘And we give them our full attention with the different programmes that we do. We want them to know that their life is worth it, that they are valued, that they can have a future, and no matter what situations they face, it doesn’t end there, there is hope for them.’

As well as their work in the community, José and Keyla also run two Salvation Army corps in the city.

‘The people who come to the church here in Salto, they are very, very kind, very attentive and very helpful,’ expresses José. ‘I feel very happy to carry out these two appointments at the same time even though it is tiring.

‘I became an officer because I really understood the message of Jesus Christ that entrusts us with a mission: the great commission to preach the gospel.’

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