Latvia: Bethlehem House at the service of the poor and needy
By Mario Galgano – Riga, Latvia
The Bethlehem House is located in one of the poorest areas of Riga, where violence and drug addiction abound.
The house, which is run by Caritas employees, among others, offers services to people who want to get free from their alcohol or drug addiction. The "Alcoholics Anonymous" (AA) twelve-point plan provides orientation for those affected.
Help with rehabilitation
An average of 30 persons in need come to the center each year. But before they are allowed to stay at Bethlehem House, they first have to spend a few weeks at the rehabilitation farm of the "Nova Vita" foundation.
This farm, with about 15 sheep, a dozen chickens and a dog named Rambo belongs to the Archdiocese of Riga and is located about 30 kilometers outside Riga in the village of Olaine. Away from the city and isolated, the patients live on the farm where they have to provide for themselves.
Some volunteers are also on hand to take care of the people suffering from addictions to help them become free of their dependencies.
Assisted by sisters
The living conditions in the house are still poor, but thanks to donations from the German relief foundation Bonifatiuswerk amounting to over 115,000 Euro, the center has been able to provide heating in all rooms, install insulation, construct functioning floors and walls, build a porch in front of the main entrance and repair the sanitary facilities. Help also comes from the convent of the Dominican Sisters of Bethany in Riga.
A German nun, Sr. Hannah, who speaks fluent Latvian and has lived in Riga for many years, accompanied Vatican News on a visit to the relief organization.
She says her community of 3 members is very closely connected to the local population. The nuns have run a clothing store for many years and currently operate a guest house next to the convent.
Since the beginning of the Ukraine war, the Dominican Sisters have been bringing aid supplies to the Polish-Ukrainian border and at the same time taking Ukrainian refugees, along with their children to Latvia where they are taken in and cared for in the monastery.
Bonifatiuswerk has also donated about 12,000 Euro to provide aid for Ukrainians in need.