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Rome Reports

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Las Patronas: Women who help complete strangers on a passing train

This train has seen it all.  From desperation and fear, to hope and generosity. In this small Mexican town of about 4,500 people, a group of women work for hours, to help complete strangers.  NORMA ROMERO VASQUEZ Founder of 'Las Patronas' "We started hearing people on board saying 'we're hungry and we're thirsty.' When we first started, we were told you women are crazy. What do you feed people you don't even know?â? The train is nicknamed 'The Beast.' It's passengers aren't your average travelers. Most of them are from Central America. They hop on the cargo train in the hopes of getting closer to the U.S. Along the way, they pass through the Mexican town of  'La Patrona' in the state of Veracruz.  "This road is too tough. You're hungry, thirsty, sleepless."You could lose a hand or even your life.â? "We started out with ten or 15 meals and now we make around 150 per day. We also deliver 250 to 300 bottles of water.â?  With each passing train, these women hand out food, water, clothes and shoes to whoever reaches out. The train doesn't stop, neither does their generosity.  NORMA ROMERO VASQUEZ Founder of 'Las Patronas' "We always seen it as a project God started and he invited us to take part in it. We do this 365 days a year. We give them a bag of rice, beans and then tortillas.â? The Vatican's Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, invited  the group's founder, Norma Romero Vasquez, to talk about their work. Before this visit, she gave a presentation at Oxford University.  FR. RENE MICALLEF  Pontifical Gregorian University  "These are humble people from Mexican communities. They see this problem and the suffering it brings and they go out and do something.â?  The group started in 1995. Since then it has helped thousands of complete strangers.  At first they payed for everything, but as word got around, donations started pouring in. Even though immigration is a heated debate, the founder of the group says, she's not really interested in the politics of it...she says she just wants to help those in need.  KLH AA VM  -PR Up: YJA