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Nobel Prize nominee Pedro Opeka marks his 74th birthday

The 29th of June marks the birthday of an outstanding Slovenian and Nobel Prize nominee, Pedro Opeka, also known as Father Opeka, a Catholic priest from Argentina who works as a missionary in Madagascar. He was awarded the Legion of Honour for serving the poor.

Pedro Opeka, who was born in 1948 in Buenos Aires to parents of Slovenian descent, has dedicated his entire life to helping people that live in appalling living conditions in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Pedro Opeka has been helping the poorest of the poor, the homeless, and all those living on the margins of society for almost 50 years now by enabling them to live independently, giving them work and financial independence, as well as education.

The Akamasoa Association is of extraordinary humanitarian importance
The great and tireless efforts of Pedro Opeka and his associates have yielded incredible results. Father Pedro Opeka founded the local association Akamasoa in December 1989, which includes more than 18 villages with all the necessary infrastructure. Formerly homeless people and families now live in more than 4,000 brick houses, and the organisation also provides comprehensive education for them, starting with kindergartens, then elementary, vocational and secondary schools, to the recently established Akamasoa University, and they also have three libraries. More than 13,000 children and adolescents are currently in the regular education process as part of the school system. Young people can be educated and trained for different professions and jobs. Akamasoa also has six clinics, three hospitals and four maternity hospitals. There are also 18 sports fields located in the area. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Opeka and his Malagasy associates, the organisation has managed to help more than half a million of the poorest people in Madagascar. In addition, the Akamasoa Association provides approximately 5 million meals each year.

The support offered by Akamasoa is extensive. They not only offer decent living conditions but also help the poor find sustainable work. Children who had previously lived in landfills have the opportunity to attend classes in Akamasoa; the association offers families accommodation in the well-kept residential districts in Akamasoa with parks and sports fields and also offers them healthcare. In addition, to Akamasoa, Pedro Opeka has also built several new educational facilities elsewhere in Madagascar, which are now managed by state institutions.

Father Opeka teaches respect for nature and its resources
Father Opeka teaches young Malagasy respect and care for nature. He is strongly committed to afforestation and protection of Madagascar’s forests, 70 percent of which have already been destroyed. Every year he plants around 50,000 seedlings with the young people he works with. And although Pedro Opeka’s humanitarian activity is limited to Madagascar only, it has attracted the attention of foreigners as well. Akamasoa has friends, donors and supporters in several countries around the world. Akamasoa serves as an inspiration for learning how to share and help the most vulnerable.

In the last ten years, Father Opeka has been nominated for the Nobel Prize several times, and last year, the former Prime Minister Janez Janša showed him great respect and affection as he nominated him for the award once again, emphasising that the approach of Opeka and his Akamasoa Association is comprehensive in terms of the development of society and humanitarianism and that Opeka’s activity embodies the goals of the United Nations. The humanitarian efforts of Pedro Opeka and his associates in Madagascar have become a global peace project in the fight against poverty, marginalisation, and injustices, with the intention of enabling poor people around the world to live a life worthy of a human being. At the end of his nomination, Janša also quoted the former President of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who said the following about Pedro Opeka in 2014: “Father Pedro is a living beacon of hope and faith for overcoming poverty. I would like to invite all citizens from around the world to pay tribute to this remarkable person, who has been invested in the fight against poverty and exclusion for every day of his life and has created a new society that brings hope and happiness to the poor.”

Tanja Brkić

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