Daughters of Wisdom, Palmira-Valle, Columbia
It is often said that times change and it can be seen in many ways. It is also said that changes bring novelty. In what sense? For 57 years, the Laura Vergara Institution, known as « Home of the Widow» in Palmira Valle welcomed only women with children over two years old. Having lost a husband and a father because of social violence experienced in that part of the country, they were abandoned and left without any form of family or social support.
A new form of violence
Violence still prevails, but now, it is domestic violence with no father figure. The number of mothers “head of families” is rising; sometimes they are alone because the husband and father of their children left them for another companion. Most often, mothers and children must run away from home because of physical and psychological abuse from the husband. It is a violation of their rights and it puts them in a risky situation.
Now, we receive women head of families with newborn babies. They are victims of circumstances and wrong choices, with men who abuse, belittle and abandon them to their fate. These women take on the responsibility of maternity and try the impossible to bring up their children.
Preoccupation: keep the family together
The new face of the “House of the Widow” is the face of children barely a few months old and receiving affection from perfect strangers. One crying mother pleaded for the services of the “House”, saying “My husband left me and three children, two, five and six years old live in different homes with strangers. My month-old baby is with me, but I live in one room, sharing a bed with the woman who took me in…my dream is to have all my four children with me…please help me.”
We see face of the infant Jesus migrating to Egypt with the help of his parents to escape Herod’s murderous terror. As for the children of the “House”, they escape domestic violence with their mother. To avoid being raised in an atmosphere of abuse and aggression, their mothers, after careful consideration, decide to take another way to protect their children.
Today, these women are welcomed with lots of love and are part of a community of life at the “Home of the Widow”. There, they easily enter in relationship with one another since they live similar situations and experiences.
Situation of vulnerability
The reality of children and adolescents is becoming more complex. They live with or without a parental figure. They are raised by grand-parents or uncles who have to leave them alone because they work.
These children spend the majority of their lives without an authority figure. They are exposed to all kinds of situation: rape, substance abuse, aggression, poverty and street gangs. To avoid this, the ICBF (Colombian Institute of Family Protection), created programs adapted to this population. The “Home of the Widow” is currently hosting 73 children and adolescents at risk for the protection-violation program.
The presence of the Daughters of Wisdom is very significant not only for the family protection program, but also for these children and their families. The Sisters inspire confidence and security. While working with adolescents can be a daunting and exhausting task, the Sisters are present with the needy and those deprived of affection. As was said at Puebla , “these are the suffering faces of Jesus.”
POPE JOHN PAUL II - Puebla de Los Angeles (Mexico), Palafoxiano Seminary, Sunday, January 28 1979