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Marist Centre in Maicao welcomes migrant boys and girls

27/06/2019: Colombia

To celebrate in a concrete way the memory of Saint Marcellin Champagnat, on June 6 the Province of Norandina inaugurated the Marist house "A heart without bounds", in Maicao, Colombia, located some 10 kilometres from the border with Venezuela. It is a project which welcomes, during the day, children of Venezuelan migrants who do not have anywhere to leave their children because of the hard and difficult conditions that they have to confront when arriving from Venezuela in Colombia.  

Below, Mrs. Kenia Dales, a Marist teacher from Venezuela who migrated to Colombia and directs the social centre, shares with the Marist world her experience in these first weeks of work. 

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Less than a month ago I was at the border between Venezuela and Colombia, although I was very afraid because of the mission that I had taken on. From the very beginning I thanked God for the opportunity given to me and although many thoughts crossed my mind, fear, concern, happiness… conflicting emotions , even so, I continue thanking God, Our Good Mother and Marcellin because every day is an adventure of love, of dedication and hope.   

This adventure took place in Maicao (Guajira), in a small neighbourhood, Los comuneros.  Accompanied by Brother Héctor Colala and with the collaboration of the Social Pastoral, the Marist house "A heart without bounds - Macao", opened its doors on June 6 to welcome children of migrant Venezuelans and returning Colombians. This project, run by the Marist Community of the Province of Norandina, welcomes children aged 5 to 14 years during the day. Together with them people have come to our house with a great desire to help; getting to know them makes me understand that God has opened the roads for us and is present among us: Pamela, Diani, Sandra, are becoming more and more part of the project day by day. 

From the beginning, I have heard so much from the parents of these children. In the midst of their innocence, some sadness escapes from behind their smiles. Life does not prepare us for such situations until we live them. However, there are circumstances that force us to leave everything: everything that was ours: everything that was part of our day to day living, including the people we love; leaving our roots, that piece of land called home; to cross boundaries in search of new opportunities. And we go out with broken dreams, filled with fear, alone or with the closest of our families, our children; we allow ourselves to be taken to another land and the road becomes eternal thinking of the past, worried for those we leave behind or for those who go with us to an uncertain destination. The sound of the wind whispering in our ears becomes a cry from the depth of our being: "everything will be fine", encouraging us, faking a smile in the midst of our anguish. 

Looking at their tired faces, listening to every word, trying to express everything that they keep in their heart and feeling their warm hands in mine, to give thanks, to make it worthwhile to be here. To tell them that I am listening to them and that I understand them because I also am leaving everything behind, to give them a smile, to tell them to have faith, a lot of faith that with the help of God everything will improve; this is my first commitment; although I ask myself can I do more? How else can I help them?, can they read and recognize in us the face of Jesus? 

 "A heart without frontiers" is an oasis in this desert, a small drop of water that will do everything possible to quench the thirst of the little ones who come to our doors, we will do everything in our power and more, so that they feel loved and cared for. The little ones who have come to our house this week with dirty shoes and burnt skin, arriving fearful, but after a while they run through the courtyard, their smile fills every corner, some want to draw, to sing, to dance, to see them eat between laughter and vague discussions, those that only children understand, to look at them enjoying an ice cream which is the first for some and from nowhere to listen to  "I LOVE YOU, TEACHER" so open, so innocent, so sincere makes me think that I am in the place that I should be. And at the end of the day their parents arrive and they jump for joy talking about everything that they have done.  

My heart beats stronger with so many conflicting emotions, I do not stop thanking God because every day the children who come to our house become part of Champagnat's dream.  

By way of reflection, I leave you this:  More than 30,000 Venezuelan children are on this border; families with 5 or 6 children are seen in the streets, squares, shelters, settlements, so we must question ourselves if in reality our life history is sad or not , in comparison to that of these parents and children who have had to live such a confused, cruel and uncertain reality.  

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Kenya Dales 

Coordinator of the Marist House Heart without frontiers  

Maicao - Colombia

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