I specifically remember this one night before Christmas while growing up as a little girl, how an immense feeling of warmth, comfort and excitement overwhelmed me. The same feelings came back to me last Friday because I could hardly wait until the next day when I would get to visit Marcos Kaseman and his program for children, Ángeles de Medellín.
Niels who I had met in Medellín told me about his work with the children in Regalos de Dios and had told me the story of Marcos. I immediately knew that I wanted to visit and even work there during the weekends but soon enough realised that I could not since Ángeles de Medellín is closed during weekends. But there was a special event being set up and I saw my chance and told Niels about 77 times that I really wanted to go.
We set out decently early on Saturday morning taking the metro for about 20 minutes to reach the spot where the cable cars leave from and yes, the contrasts are very distinct. Listening to Adele at the metro station while waiting for a superclean train, to cable cars in the middle of Medellín, to travel uphill for 25 minutes and get to a place which once upon a time was an extremely poor, unsafe (gang violence) and exposed area (drugs). It is yet a very poor and rather unsafe area but a lot of things have changed the past few years. We wave at buss 55, hop on and are on our last part of the way to Regalos de Dios. I try to take some photos from the bus and am instantly warned to “be careful and not take photos of young men” – as they are most likely gangmembers and would not appreciate their photos being taken. I understand and usually like to ask people if I may take pictures of them but try to be very discrete and also avoid getting any people in my photos which is difficult anyway from the very bumpy busride. I do manage to get some shots of peoples houses, which remind me more of shelters; most of the homes are made with plastic sheetings wrapped around poles and dirt floors. Some doors are open and I would like to share with you how people live up there but out of respect (since I could not ask them) I decided not to zoom in in to their homes.
We get off the bus and the rain has made the dirt all soft and moist. Water and mud starts to sink in to my shoes but I hardly notice this as we are now close to Ángeles de Medellín and I am excited to soon meet Marcos and all of the children he cares for. We arrive there and there are already around 200 children standing outside the little place that Marcos has established. They are excited and are holding “tickets” in their hands in order to be let in. It is necessary as the food and toys are limited and we are expecting around 350 children within a very short time. Donations have been made so that we can hand out some toys, clothing, fruits and vegetables to the children and their families and let them enjoy a juicy slice of cake – making the day very festive and special for them. Many kids do not even get food at times so things such as apples, corn and cake feels very special for them to get.
While the day starts to reach its end it also starts to rain. It rains at least once a day in Medellín now but we were lucky during the day and even had some sunshine. Some kids have run home but many are still with us and Marcos plays Gangnam style and dances away to the delight and chuckles of the children (and mine). Two of the children who live up there usually come to Casa Karah downtown and they showed me their home..and I feel sad to see it – because at first, you cannot really believe that this is how they live because they are dressed and rather clean..the other day, another girl from Casa Karah was spotted around the corner downtown with her granny begging for food and money..
Many things up in Regalos de Dios actually also remind me a little about Nepal – the structure of the building, the comforts of the place and even though there is a toilet how water is leaking from it and how the “room” is set up by wooden planks and housed by spiders and spiderweb. At least there is a light, which there was none in Nepal at the Monastery.
Mark (Marcos) Kaseman is from the USA who came to Medellín, Colombia about 9 years ago. He started the project Ángeles de Medellín to help victims of violence from Colombia’s civil war that now have been displaced. The project takes up all of Marcos time and he has now been doing this for 8 years. Every day, Monday through Friday he travels from his home in Medellín approximately 1.5 hour away, to Regalos de Dios to be there for the children. To share with them his love and teach them, amongst many things, English. In the beginning of his project the FARC Rebels had control of the area but Marcos managed to have a dialogue with them and seeing his genuine care for the children, he was able to get their “consent” and keep his program going through it all.
I am so happy that I had the opportunity to meet with Marcos and help him, even only for a day. I work with Poder Joven Monday-Friday and Ángeles de Medellín are closed during the weekends but I hope to be able to visit at least one more time before I leave Medellín – I feel that I really have to.
If you are interested in learning more about Ángeles de Medellín let me know. I will also update the blog with more details on how we can support his work. For photos, see the next gallery post.
Thank you Marcos for being who you are and doing what you are doing – it was such a pleasure to meet you.
“The greatest gift you can ever give another person is your own happiness”
– Esther Hicks