Every morning, Zuly Hoyos
goes to buy the food she cooks to feed
more than 100 people displaced by war in Colombia,
who would not survive without her dedicated work.
She told me she has a community meal center.
She helps a lot of people and that is why people collaborate with her
and provide her with low prices.
Together with other women --
most of them widows and with small children --
Zuly manages a popular meal center that she calls the "community pot."
Mainly children, elders, displaced people, street vendors,
old people who live inlittle rooms and have no one to give them a meal.
I give, with all my heart, lunch to elderly men and children for 700 pesos.
For U.S.$0.20, these humble people get a generous
and nutritious meal. Those who can contribute more
pay just U.S.$0.50.
How is it possible that this soup kitchen has subsisted for 10 years?
It all started when Zuly's brother was murdered
by the guerrilla, and his wife and children were abandoned.
She is a widow and I am, too. People used to come
and ask us for help, and we did not even have enough for our children.
So I told her one day: "Why don't we sell cheap food?"
We use an exchange system here. Many people bring a pound
of rice or lentils, or some potatoes, and we exchange it for meals.
Within days, the word spread that there was a soup kitchen
for forgotten and displaced people, and it became a shelter for lots of people like them,
because Cali is home to more than 800,000 people
who have had to flee their peasant lands because of violence.
Servio Angel Castillo, a lawyer, has been helping
them for years, as well as other displaced people.
A person who was forced out of his territory left everything,
lost everything and came to a city with children,
with dependents, without a source of employment. This happened to many of these peasants or indigenous people,
who had employment in the fields, and they feel useless
because the city is unable to receive them. It is quite hard.
This happened to Santiago Silva,
who, upon completion of his compulsory military service,
returned to his town and was hunted
in retaliation for having engaged in combat against criminal gangs.
The Black Eagles first warned us that we must leave
because we were army collaborators, so
we had to get out of there and leave everything we had.
For several months, Santiago has been unemployed.
To earn some money, he helps in the soup kitchen.
So does Mercedes Acosta, who had to leave everything behind in her village.
First, her husband was murdered by the paramilitaries.
For that reason, her son, who lived in the city, came
back to help her and also became a victim of the war.
He told me, "Mommy, you have a lot of drive. Let's sell the animals.
The land will not be lost." He gave me those reasons, so
we went and stayed three days. And on the third day, as
we were about to leave, they killed
my son before my eyes. This was a very hard thing. Very hard, very hard.
She says it was the FARC guerrillas,
and she was caught in the middle and had
to flee with her younger children, one of them a newborn.
Peasants have always lived with this problem,
and the state never helps us.
We feel very rejected. Wherever you go and say
you are a displaced person, they look at you with suspicion and fear.
And organizations that should help us, they look at us as objects.
But she is not the only one that feels anguish.
Many of the 3 million internally displaced people in Colombia,
according to UNHCR estimates, feel that the state has abandoned them.
The Constitutional Court openly questions the role of the national government
regarding displacement. There has not been clear public policy or government
actions to protect or try to find solutions for these people.
And instead, many of these people ended up in misery and poverty
in the margins of cities like ours.
People affected by drug trafficking, paramilitaries, guerrillas,
and who were in the same situation, began to organize in ways
that allowed them to start answering their problems.
They came together to solve the problem of nourishment.
They also had the opportunity to address the problem
of where to leave their little ones, so it was necessary to start implementing child care.
Today there are 15 soup kitchens, which have become an alternative
for thousands of displaced people,
who know that at least they and their children
will be able to eat until the day comes when they will have the opportunity
to rebuild their lives in peace -- hopefully in the same lands they had to abandon.