Altos de la Florida - Bogotá

In your midst I will leave a humble and lowly people… (Zp 3:12). This is the heritage that has been left to us as Little Sisters: a humble and lowly people, one that does not count in this globalised society and world. We could say that this heritage has been confided over a period of 146 years to different generations of Little Sisters.

This heritage will be always with us for, as Jesus said: ’You have the poor with you always’ (Mk 14:7) and we can see that it is so. The poor are present in every corner of the world. It is for us to respond in fidelity to this Founding grace, to the Charism that was confided to us that we might keep it alive. 

It is in this reality that I still experience and hear the phrase: "Go with all your strength, am I not sending you myself?" and feel sent to be a witness to the tenderness of God through the simple actions of daily life, aware of my possibilities and my limits, but certain that God and our founders are my companions along the way, and that I am supported by Mary of the Assumption. 
It is the strength of this mission that impels me to continue bringing my little grain of sand here in Altos de la Florida where the presence of Etienne and Antoinette who were faced with situations of dire poverty and suffering awaken for me the depth of their experiences in communicating to us, from the depth of their existence, the significance of their encounter with poor and lowly people in their lives: "I saw misery that I did not know how to name" (E. P.) "The pain of others makes me suffer" (A.F.).
Last year I sent you some first echoes of this mission. Today, sadly, I have to tell you that the situation in which some 5,000 people are living has deteriorated in many respects; families who have been displaced by violence are still arriving from different corners of the country. 
The work of legalisation that has been started is still very difficult because of legal and bureaucratic obstacles. However, there has been one thing giving light and strength: the formation of the Asociación de Viviendistas de Altos de la Florida. Already, this has made it possible to collect funds that help them to acquire their houses by paying what has been agreed on with the owners. 
This year also, the violence has been evident in many different ways: 
  • Various groups have invaded the three sectors, young people, male and female, take over control of the territory with the dire consequences this entails, creating a situation of insecurity that more and more alarming. 
  • The sale and consumption of drugs has increased; children are the most vulnerable and the chief victims of this reality. We can see once again the presence of gangs, robberies, threats and people moving out. 
  • The drug traffickers get hold of those who are defenceless: children and youth, and turn them into addicts and later dealers. 
  • Hunger and illnesses are appearing in families. 
  • There are fewer and fewer work opportunities. 
  • The struggle for survival begins very early every morning, at 2 or 3 a.m. when people go out to recycle (select from the rubbish all that might be a means of survival for them). 
  • The spiral of violence and fear is growing daily. In recent months the inhabitants have experienced situations that prevented them from going out after 6 in the afternoon. 
In this place of contradictions and contrasts (like others in our country), there are signs of Life, of Hope… 
  • The music group, in which almost 150 boys and girls participate, with a weekly meeting, is a seed of life, like a path of prevention and also of development of their abilities, channelling their energy.
  • We also have a little library; the aim of this is to support the children as they do their homework, offering a space for guidance and accompaniment during their free time. 
  • My presence here is that of a friend, a sister; my time is taken up with the health centre in a ministry of listening and service through massage and other alternative forms of relaxation and self care that bring well-being and serenity. 
  • I accompany families through visiting, whether it be to offer a service in the care of a sick person, or that they may feel closeness and acceptance and the tenderness of God, and out of interest for what they are living. 
  • I feel privileged to be able to enter into the homes and, with my shoes off, be a witness to the joys and sufferings that mark their lives; to be the servant making up the bed of a young paralysed man, cleaning out his living space in house, enabling him to feel he is a person, has dignity and, sometimes, through dialogue, through little times of prayer, to look together for paths towards overcoming, encounter, forgiveness and reconciliation. 
  • In the family that has received me since my arrival in this mission area, and has allowed me to live with them during the days I spend in this district, there are also joys and sufferings. The presence of a new life, the birth of a beautiful child: Sergio Daniel, who in the midst of poverty and without being sought for, came to bring joy to the life of this home. This month he is one year old. Providence has watched over him, over them, and in the midst of poverty he is very well, thanks be to God. Also, as we said, no joy is complete: Alirio, the father of that little child, is very ill, doubtless because of a chronic obstructive pulmonary illness. We are praying to our God and asking our Founders to intercede for the gift of Health. 
  • The Food and Agricultural Organisation is encouraging individual kitchen gardens so as to ensure a food supply for people. 
  • All that has been said above is a challenge to our creativity and our hope: it impels us to strengthen the work groups in which the different organisations meet each month to analyse these situations and to seek together how to respond to them. 
  • We have set up a community work plan so as to motivate the different groups to express what living in Altos de la Florida means and to invite them to dream a little about what we would like life here to be in 15 years time… What must we construct so that these dreams might become a reality ?
We see this path as a possible way of guiding the work of all the organisations in the quest for means that might lead us, together with the members of the community, to make these dreams a reality. 
I am counting on your accompaniment through prayer so that I may continue, for as long as the Lord permits, this service by which I try to show forth the presence of the Kingdom of Jesus among those whom he prefers. 
Sister Hilda, Little Sister of the Assumption 
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