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© IELCO/L. E. Ramirez

Colombia: Tote Bags

A Gift from an Elderly People’s Refuge

In Soacha, south of Colombia’s capital Bogota, internally displaced persons live amid poverty and crime.

Members of a self-help project for elderly displaced people started by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia (IELCO) and ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together) have made hand-crafted bags for the LWF Assembly.

The IELCO project initiator Martha Wilches recalls its beginnings: “We started providing a hot meal for up to 15 individuals, but the need was enormous.”

Everyone works on the bags according to their abilities. Income from sales is divided equally. The church also provides a psychologist, and offers cultural, health, physical and spiritual support.

Maria Segunda Para, with the group for two years, says, “I like it here. This makes you forget all the sadness and all the worry that we live in.”

Agustin Quintero Arseniegas, displaced by the civil conflict from the countryside where he had worked on the land since he was 13, “wasn’t used to this kind of work.” But after two months with the group, he feels motivated, and considers it important “for people like us that have experienced so much negativity.” He says the loneliness can be hard to deal with. “But here I feel protected,” he adds.

IELCO plans a similar project in another city.


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