• Gustavo Driau

The church in Colombia, serving migrants in COVID-19 time

Updated: May 27, 2020

The most important thing is that the virus has not prevented to continue so serve the people who need it most in this community.

Ana Mendivelso. Angelica Arias.Daniel Rubiano

Colombia is a country in northern South America that has been recognized worldwide for its biodiversity and natural beauties, also for the peace processes that allowed, with civic courage and creativity, end long years of internal armed conflict.

As in any Latin American capital, Bogota, the city capital, is overcrowded ans surrounded of belts of misery that were founded by displaced people; who have come from various parts of the country uprooted from their lands and with trauma caused by six decades of armed conflict. Bosa is a sector in Bogota that is precisely a mirror of the reality in Colombia; most people living here are low-income citizens living below the poverty line. Their incomes mainly come from the informal economy.

IELCO, the Lutheran church in Colombia, is serving this neighborhood for the last 15 years; “Rains of Grace” is the name of the Lutheran congregation in Bosa.

Angelica Arias (in red vest and blue blouse) belongs to this community; she is part of the Humanitarian Assistance Center for Venezuelan Migrants- IELCO -CAHV since its inception. In February 2019, the program was looking for a canteen to provide meals for Venezuelan migrants. The program interviewed several restaurants, but the owners were not interested in working with migrants, because of Xenophobia or because of indifference or rejection of community social work. Angelica, been a canteen owner, had a different answer. When the program invited her to participate in the Lutheran program to help Venezuelan migrants, she accesses with a smile on her face and a lot of kindness and humanity.

Angelica says: "I am one of the people that do my work from the soul, today I am pleased to be able to share with you this great story, which we have been developing together with an excellent team.”

Before COVID-19, Venezuelan immigrants received, three times a week, a balanced and nutritious lunch, which was delivered with friendliness and respect, welcoming the stranger. Angelica provided the designated lunches in her established canteen, where children, adolescents, women in pregnancy, and older adults, were feeding properly under the program guidance.

The situation changed dramatically with the COVID-19 emergency that the country is experiencing due to the decision of the Colombian government of compulsory isolation to prevent COVID -19. Nowadays, it is no longer possible to deliver prepared meals in the canteen. During the pandemic, the Program assists by providing a basic food basket for people to prepare at home. The situation has worsened for migrants because they do not always have a kitchen to cook.

Angelica is now collaborating with the program´s team delivering food supplies, “It is gratifying for me to contribute and reach these people and somehow meet their basic needs even under the COVID-19 crisis”.

“I feel good, and pride, in doing this job and being able to contribute to the church and the Colombian society dealing with migration and COVID-19. I have found a call to serve, which exceeds all my expectations. My way of living and my understanding changed in a year and a half serving migrants. Daily contact with these families and their stories and challenges changed my life.”

That’s why being part of this program motivates me every day to do my job with joy." "I thank God for being part of this team!" concludes Angelica.

Since February 2019, Angelica Arias has not only provided support with food aid but has also proven to be a person with great dynamism who has brought to the program excellent ideas. In the first months, the meals were given in a small place where migrants had to take turns for lunch; at this time, they meet in a more qualified facility that she leases to improve the quality and comfort of the place for the participants of the program.

Because of COVID-19, the restaurant does not provide lunches for now, but it is the place to distribute the markets. Angelica, together with the community leader, take care of this work, having all the responsibility of bio-security regulations. The most important thing is that the virus has not prevented to continue so serve the people who need it most in this community.

Authors: Daniel Rubiano - Angelica Arias- Ana Mendivelso

Translation: Gustavo Driau

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