One of the Slí Eile volunteers, Edel, penned this fine impressionistic account of her time in the Hogares y Luz orphanage this summer. She and a number of other volunteers spent three weeks in Bogota, and they were all deeply impressed by the experience.
Colombia is a kaleidoscope of colours. This summer I spent three weeks there as part of a solidarity trip with Slí Eile, where I, along with seven other volunteers, worked in Hogares and Hans Luz y Vida (Light and Life) orphanage and school in Bogota. I have found words to be insufficient and inept at capturing the true nature of my experience in Colombia, so I will attempt to use colours to bring light and life to my story.
Red – A colour of love and vitality. Sr Valeriana (the founder of Hogares and Hans) along with all the staff who worked there were true witnesses to this colour. The orphanage and school are rooted in love, love formed the foundations, built the walls and sealed the ceilings! It is a love proclaimed through action and I was deeply privileged to share in this love.
Orange – A colour of energy with endurance. Whilst the three weeks were physically and emotionally challenging, I was struck by the way that everyone in the group of volunteers gave of their whole selves. The motivation was simple- to make the children’s day brighter. There was also a tremendous commitment by the leaders of our group to support and guide us during our stay.
Yellow – A colour of joy and happiness. Yellow symbolises the Colombian welcome that was extended to us by the Jesuits and parishoners of Paroque San Javier- our home for the three weeks. It was obvious that the visit by the Slí Eile volunteers is eagerly anticipated each year which is testament to the work of previous volunteers and Brendan McManus SJ who along with the co-ordinator Debbie Moore established the project. We were received with amazing hospitality and generosity. The sense of solidarity felt real, a solidarity that outlives our three week trip and creates a community that isn’t dependent on geographical proximity.
Green – The colour of life and growth. It represents our time in the Colombian countryside. As the majority of our days were spent in the sprawling city of Bogota, it came as a welcome reprieve to savour the tropical surroundings of the Colombian Finca’s (farms) we visited. The first time we travelled alone as a group, the second time with children from Hogares. After both trips I felt a renewed energy, I had been nourished by nature.
Blue – The colour of communication. Language and speech difficulties proved to be barriers to verbal communication but it was the messages of the unspoken word that remain with me. The gentleness, sincerity, spirituality and peace transmitted by the people I met will stay with me always.
Indigo – The colour of spiritual realisations and personal understandings. Indigo, belonging to the family of purple, a colour associated with Advent and Easter- this was a journey of life and death, of being created again and dying to old ways. Each morning we gathered as a group for a time of prayer and reflection, it was a quiet time, a time to surrender the day to God, a time for trusting, surrendering, believing and receiving.
Violet – The colour of that which is precious. Violet is the colour of the children we met, but they are in every other colour too, they are the spectrum of colours and more. Some children have physical, psychological and learning disabilities, some have stories of abuse, neglect and abandonment. Their brokenness and vulnerability appeared to offer them a freedom to give and receive love – there is no need for perfection as there is acceptance.
The end of the rainbow depends on the location of the viewer and so it is with this Colombia experience. Personally the ‘pot of gold’ for me was in the lessons I learned from the top room in Hogares Luz y Vida – lessons of faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these was love.