At 4,500 metres above sea level, a community of 200,000 people live without water or electricity in the Andes Mountains.

In Huancané, Peru, the population of mostly farmers lead an incredibly difficult and challenging existence. Situated about four and a half hours out from Arequipa, where Mgr Giovanni Cefai, a Gozitan, was recently appointed bishop, it also forms part of the newly set up territorial prelature of Santiago Apóstol de Huancané.

As Mgr Cefai himself can attest, the needs of the community are so large and varied that it would be much easier to give up than face such a tremendous challenge. Infants and the elderly are probably the worst off due to the lack of health services in that part of the region.

At such high altitudes, the average temperature sits at -15°C and can drop to even deadlier lows. With no local hospitals or clinics to treat the sick, many end up suffering a slow and painful death.

The people of Huancané live in small huts with no beds, often sleeping on the floor without blankets or warm clothes.

They have no tables, chairs, cookers or space for even the most basic of household furniture. The situation is verging on the impossible.

This year, the main objective of the Oħloq Tbissima marathon is to raise funds to provide a better standard of living for the population of Huancané.

The project envisions building huts, farms, schools and clinics in the area, as well as providing for other basic requirements to improve the living conditions in Huancané.

Together we can achieve something beautiful.

Today’s  60-hour marathon is being held at St Joseph home in Santa Venera.

As of 5.30pm, it had raised just over €105,000. 

Valerie Vella, who will be hosting the event and recently visited Huancané to volunteer, described the experience as “something that truly stays with you and touches your heart. The love the priests have for these people truly makes a difference in their lives.”

With a strong faith in God and the benefactors of the Missionary Society of St Paul (MSSP), which he belongs to, Mgr Cefai believes that the needs of the community  will slowly start being met.

Life in the region remains difficult and many improvements are still needed, yet this fails to dampen Mgr Cefai’s spirit.

“I feel encouraged and full of enthusiasm because I know that there is a nation supporting me. Not just the MSSP, but the Maltese people, whose hearts are full of kindness and generosity, and I believe that together we can achieve something beautiful.”

The marathon will include performances by various leading personalities from the entertainment industry, including singers, artists and dance companies.

A highlight of this year’s marathon is also the composition of a new song to mark the occasion. Oħloq Tbissima, composed by Fr Karm Debattista with lyrics by Fr Pierre Bonnici, evokes the heart of the MSSP’s missions, with lyrics empathetic to the mission’s main beneficiaries and enigmatic orchestration by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Oħloq Tbissima will be opened today at noon by President George Vella together with Archbishop Charles Scicluna. St Joseph Home will be open to the public throughout the marathon.

Donations to Oħloq Tbissima can be made anytime throughout the marathon by calling 5170 2007 to donate €15, 5180 2009 to donate €25 and 5190 2080 to donate €50. To donate €4.66 send an SMS to 5061 8099. A pledge line will also be open on 2144 5544. Visit

The article first appeared in Times of Malta on Sunday, July 21, 2019

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