25 Aug FROM PROTECTING LIFE TO RISKING IT, SERVING TOGETHER/spain
A different summer, a call to Serve Together. Loyola University, the San Hipolito Center (Jesuits), and the Sacred Heart School (Handmaids) of Cordoba joined together, enthusiastically accepting the SJV2020 proposal. In the midst of the de-escalation of the lockdown, wanting to reach out to the most vulnerable situations, after a period in which we have been protecting life, we felt a call to go out and risk it by serving.
The coordinating team was comprised of two teachers from Loyola, the superior of the Jesuits and me. We began to explore the different realities of our city, and at the other end of the line we met with the marks that the Pandemic had left on the most vulnerable groups, fear, uncertainty, closed doors, projects on-hold as a means of protection.
FOUR PROJECTS WERE PRESENTED TO US AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE
Two in neighborhoods in the southern part of Cordoba, separated from us by the Guadalquivir River, as always the “south” lives in exclusion and great need.
Punta Verde: is organized from the Parish of Santa Luisa de Marillac, encompassing the PolIgono de Guadalquivir and the southern sector. Zones that are socially excluded, whose principal problems are sexual violence, poverty, incarcerated parents, toxic relationships… it is the main belt of poverty in our city of Cordoba.
Punta Verde aims through play and workshops, to provide, redirect, encourage children, adolescents and youth who are socially excluded, poor and neglected.
Food Distribution: Parish of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Parque Figueroa). It is a neighborhood of workers who have been affected by the economic crisis stemming from the Pandemic. It serves 130 families at risk due to a lack of resources. It has converted the church into a site for distribution of food and personal hygiene products.
Two with immigrants who arrived on our coasts in small boats
Project ODOS (Oasis on the way), Montilla: basic outreach to women and children who arrived on Andalucian shores.
Outreach to Moroccan youths in Pedro Abad: Outreach to youth who have been in a center for minors and upon reaching the age of 18, remain on the streets, without documents, waiting for farm work that will hlpl them to regularize their illegal situation.
For these four projects we had a group of 60 volunteers, during the whole month of July, divided into 15-day segments. Each day we began the volunteer activity in the presence of the Lord with a period of prayer together. With the invitation to the daily examen, to review the experience, the weekly “magis circle,” on Tuesdays and Thursdays a meeting of everyone to receive training. The 15 days finished with the Eucharist, as a moment to give thanks for all the good things received and given.
An experience that has led the youth to discover how much you can enjoy serving! It has left them with the desire for “more.” It has brought them face to face with realities very different from their own lives, helping them to open their eyes and let their hearts be moved in order to feel that another world is possible.
I participated as a volunteer in the Proyecto ODOS experience, in which , with Spanish classes, workshops, games, dances, swimming… I have felt the closeness and tenderness of God in hugs, kisses, joy, welcome… I felt attracted by the black color of their skin that reminded me of the journey, overcoming obstacles, suffering, risk, seeking, dreams, suffering. We were able to give them welcome, joy, hope, dignity and above all affection as a balm that cures and alleviates so many wounds from the journey, together with the experience of seeing the young people dedicate themselves so generously to these women and children, the majority of whom are here only temporarily, to rest, to heal… in order to continue along the uncertain journey to find a place in Europe where they can work and breathe.
I accompanied the experience in Pedro Abad, which was attacked, with a result that none of us would have wished for, but that has made us more aware of how difficult it is for these youths among us, with the prejudices and on occasion the rejection of those who are different. I was able to share this experience with volunteers that I did not know and again be surprised by the generosity of many good people that are in the world, and this is what remains with me. I believe firmly that Raphaela Mary, in her village and in her house, saved Kamán from the attack, for he soon recovered and was able to join the group.
A month that has been intensive in meetings, work, journey, meetings, experiences, goodbyes, celebrations… Now I look back, and my only thought is to BE THANKFUL for so much life received and given, so many faces, hugs, gazes… that will remain a part of my life. I want to finish with the testimony of Gonzalo, an alumnus and leader of the ACI groups, published on social media on finishing the experience in ODOS: “Inebriated with smiles, pregnant with them, hungover with feelings, a thirst for more, craving service, one more experience, the experience of servirjuntosverano2020.”
Paqui Oñate aci