HAVANA TIMES – Washing the feet of Venezuelans who have walked for days on end, applying cream and ointments to help heal open wounds, giving a plate of food and a new pair of shoes is a group of missionaries’ work in Bogota, Colombia.
“These people deserve to be respected, they arrive physically, psychologically and spiritually drained, their feet swollen and they need to be brave to make the journey here. They walk 3,6 or 15 days to get here,” nun Valdete Willeman told RCN radio today, who is a Scalabriniana missionary, an order that is dedicated to taking in immigrants all over the world.
The religious woman from Brazil spends her days offering these services at the Archdiocese’s Care Center for Immigrants in Bogota, a place in the city center where dozens of Venezuelans fleeing the crisis arrive, exhausted after long journeys on foot.
“I do this every day with a lot of affection, I prepare their water with soap, medicine to heal their wounds, this is the Church,” Willeman added.
One of the people that has made it here is Vanessa, a Venezuelan who crossed the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, which unites both countries, with her husband and three children and they walked from there to Cucuta, Bucaramanga and Bogota, nearly 600 kms on foot.
Official figures state that a million Venezuelans have arrived in Colombia to settle down. This number includes legal and illegal entries.
After their feet are washed and healed, immigrants receive a new pair of shoes. The basement is used as a store-room, where there aren’t only shoes, but all kinds of clothes which Colombians have donated.
“People come and leave their donations in good condition, here we sort them by size and jackets and shoes are the things we receive the most,” Esteban Lopez, an employee at this center, told the same news agency.
There are also toys and teddy bears in the store-room, people knowing that entire families come to Colombia.
According to the center’s managers, nine out of ten people who arrive at the Care Center are just stopping on their way to somewhere else.
“Our goal is Ecuador,” Mateo said, another Venezuela who came here said, while he does the maths because he hasn’t got enough money. The journey to the border can cost about 60 USD per person, and he travels with his wife. Plus, there is a lot of fear because immigrants are stopped at the border.