Ms. Martinez: During our time here, Soacha has been referred to as one of the poorest slums of Bogota. A one-and-a-half hour bus ride, then a two-and-a-half-hour trek through the simultaneously lively yet forgotten municipality revealed its resilient personality and intense poverty. Just two days ago, we broke break and gave thanks, but the opportunity appeared again after a steep climb up several hills. By the end of the day, we were thankful for the pain in our legs, because we have legs. We were grateful to feel the sunburn on the backs of our necks, because we have the strength, good health, and physical ability to do service work for others. Besides the pictures from today, check out the wonderful blog created by Jose P. and Jose G.! It took longer than expected to upload but it is worth it! Follow the link to check out our Day 5 adventures!
Trekking through Soacha
Bella: So this whole trip has been Cristo Rey students with CASFA parters, but I am not a Cristo Rey Student. I am Bella Sampsell and I go to Breck School in Golden Valley. I have been blessed to join Cristo Rey in this trip and I have bonded closely with everyone. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia and was adopted when I was a baby. I was sick the past 2 days and sadly couldn’t participate in building the house or painting the mural. I wanted to go to Soacha today, but I was feeling sick in the morning.
After some needed rest and water I felt up for going to FANA, the orphanage where I came from, to help out with the children. My dad and I went to FANA and worked with the 9 month olds – 2 year olds with two other people that worked there. It was a group of 16 babies that all had different stories. One baby was from Venezuela and was only at FANA for a month. Another baby, named Dulce, that was about a year and a half old that came to FANA a month ago as well. Another baby was about a year old and came to FANA when he was just 3 days old. It was really special for me because I was one of those babies 16 years ago. When I was playing with the babies I realized they just wanted human interaction and love. I think we take that for granted in life because we have a family who loves us. These babies don’t have that, they are in a room full of 15 other babies with 2 workers. One of the babies wouldn’t let me put her down, when I finally had to, she started to cry and put her arms out for me to pick her up again. After we fed them, it was time to put them to bed. This little 1-year-old baby, named Daniel, wouldn’t stop crying when we put him to bed. My dad picked him up and he immediately stopped crying and fell asleep in his arms. This was very touching for me and my dad because my 12 year old brother, Daniel, and I were both adopted from FANA and my dad holding a little boy named Daniel just brought back the memories from his adoption. There was another little boy named Harold and he has the same birthday as me and I thought that was amazing. Once all of them were in bed sleeping we had to leave, so we called an Uber and left.
Our Uber driver had a very interesting story. Whenever my dad takes an Uber he always asks “How many hours do you have to work per day to be able to provide for your family?” and so he asked him. He answered, but not without the story of his life. He has lived in Soacha for his entire life, except for the 21 years he was fighting against the FARQ and the Paramilitary all over Colombia. He said that seeing all of Colombia was beautiful but fighting against the FARQ and the paramilitary was very dangerous and he is very lucky that he survived. He now has a wife and 2 children, 15 years and 26 years old. They still live in Soacha and he works 18 hours a day to be able to provide for his family. His wife doesn’t have to work, because the government gives him a pension for the work that he did fighting in the military. He was very grateful for the life that God has given him and looks on the bright side. After the ride, my dad and I wondered how much that 45 minute ride was, it was $3.80.
In general, today has been pretty great. I learned to be grateful for what I have and the significance of giving back to the people that need it. Seeing the smiles of the kids when I just looked at them was uplifting. I am so thankful for the family FANA has given me and I want those kids to get the same opportunities I am given in life, because they deserve it. That Uber driver showed me another story and perspective of the drug war that is happening all throughout Colombia.
Jackie: I’ve never been so sad about a day being Saturday. With less than two days left with our CASFA partners, (well, even more than partners, they’re our family) saying goodbye will be extremely difficult. This morning I started breakfast with a prayer and I gave thanks for everything we’ve experienced and have. After breakfast, we all hopped onto the bus and had a singing competition which helped with the long bus ride.
When we finally got to Soacha we were greeted by Michael, he works with a foundation called “Codo a Codo” (“Elbow to Elbow”). He took time to show us part of Soacha and shared the stories of the place. Everything was exhausting not just physically but emotionally draining as well. If you think you’ve experienced or have a clue about poverty, you’re most likely to be wrong. The most basic necessity a human being needs is water. The people who live there need to pay high amounts of money to get about 50 gallons of water, and they need make that last 2 weeks. Michael told us many hard stories, one of them was how a company bought one of their biggest water sources, they drained the area to make an industrial complex. The site created there ended up flooding five floors during a particularly rainy season, so now it’s a huge plot of useless land instead of a watering hole for the community.
Soacha views: makeshift homes and beautiful mountains and cliffs
The cows grazing throughout Soacha
Whenever Soacha is able to obtain resources it doesn’t go all the way up the mountains, it stays at the bottom unlike drugs which always makes its way up. They do have animals like cows, but any milk they obtain from them is unsanitary because where the cows live is filled with water of all kinds of feces. Here, dogs are like squirrels, very abundant and always present even if they’re unnoticed. Few have faithful owners, almost all of them get kicked out once they stop being a puppy.
After going uphill for about two hours we were welcomed for dinner and had one of the most fantastic entertainment sets. Little kids from the same organization played the drum set and knew how to work an electric guitar. Marlon sang for us and his voice filled me with pure joy, his voice was so powerful and full, he also sang an original for us which was very powerful called “Mascaras,” or “Masks.”
After lunch we were divided into groups where we headed to paint houses. My heart shattered when I entered the home. It was in very bad conditions that when we started to paint the walls the plaster came off. We were working with a hard color: beige. We had to go through many layers off paint because we wanted to make it as pleasant as we could for the couple that lived there. As we painted, the husband just sat in the bed looking around with a smile because the mold and stains were slowly being covered. Back home I never had the chance to paint my own room, but here I was able to paint a house that was almost as big as my room. I put in all my energy into painting, not because it was part of our activity or mission but because at the time it was the least I could do, it wasn’t just paint it was love, compassion, vulnerability, and passion.
Today we were able bring joy to few people who needed it more than anyone. Mr. Dale was able to remind us that we can leave that place, but the people are still there in that condition. Today I’m even more grateful for the things I have like sense of security, medical attention, education, a home and now more specifically water. If it wasn’t for my parents who were able to escape poverty, my life would be totally different and I would probably be in the same situation. As I leave this trip my life will be totally different and will try to always be prepared for life and always serve others.