OGI plays an important role not only in our local, Orange County community, but abroad as well. We’re equipping vulnerable individuals, including those emerging from homelessness, in Mexico, Moldova, India and Cambodia with the culinary and life skills they need to continue their journey of healing and reintegrate into society. However, each area is different and what homelessness looks like here in the United States isn’t what homelessness looks like in other areas. We’ve crafted programs to fit each area’s unique needs, which is why we wanted to shed some light on what homelessness looks like in the areas we serve during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week:
In Mexico, there are approximately 53.3 million people who would be considered homeless and are without the ability to access proper housing. Additionally, 51.6 percent of the population lives below the welfare line. In Mexico City, where OGI is stationed, there has been a horrifying increase in human trafficking as cartels search for new and easier sources of income. Because of this, OGI has teamed up with two other nonprofits, El Pozo de Vida which is dedicated to eradicating human trafficking in Mexico, and Sahl+Uno, a vocational and educational training program. This groups work exclusively with women, and OGI has created a culinary training course for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Moldova is the poorest country in Eastern Europe, and the situation is so dire that the people are experiencing a “depopulation.” Homelessness is common and the country’s younger population is trying to emigrate to other countries in search of more opportunity. It’s predicted that the country will see a 19 percent decline in population by 2035. In addition to the regular culinary training program, OGI has provided a Beginning of Life-Early Learning Center, which is a safe space for single mothers and which provides care and support for women looking to start over. OGI is also working on foster care reform and training for foster parents, beauty industry training for women, a prison program for female inmates as well as a youth program to teach young people culinary skills and to help prevent them from becoming victims of human trafficking.
India is the second most populous country in the world, and it’s estimated that 51 million people lack housing or need better housing. There are an estimated 200,000 homeless in the slums of Mumbai alone. For children that have grown up in these extreme and dangerous conditions, it can be hard to overcome the “slum mentality.” OGI teamed up with Vision Rescue in Mumbai to help overcome that destructive mindset through education, vocational training, healthcare and other services.
Cambodia is another place where there is extreme poverty. Nearly three quarters of the population live on less than three dollars a day, and approximately 10 million Cambodians do not have proper housing. Cambodia also experiences a significant amount of internal and cross-border human trafficking. OGI has been able to collaborate with Agape International Missions (AIM) which works directly with the Cambodian government to arrest human traffickers as well as to rescue, restore and reintegrate survivors in the community with vocational programs. OGI’s culinary training and life skills courses are part of the important work here.
OGI exists to break the cycle for those who escape or are rescued from oppressive, violent or otherwise vulnerable situations. Often, these circumstances come hand-in-hand with homelessness. We are committed to making a difference globally through culinary education, providing the skills needed to secure a job and sustain economic independence.