For nearly sixty years, Maria-del-Carmen Fuentes Quesada, better known as Sister Maria, has been working in the working-class neighborhood of the Aquiles Serdan Quarter, one of the most troubled areas of Mexico City. She has successfully established contacts with street gangs, reached out to the poor and created workshops by relentlessly advocating on behalf of the marginalised with civil and religious authorities in her area.
For more than five decades, she has confronted the authorities, society and even the Church with the needs most felt by the community, such as poverty, misunderstanding, hunger, sexual abuse, illness and lack of opportunities. She has dedicated her life to ensuring those street children, alcoholics and drug addicts, single mothers, prostitutes, the disabled, the elderly and the chronically destitute can access a more dignified life. And this, thanks to the different projects she has developed. Carpentry, cutting and making, welding, forging and baking workshops are some examples of these projects.
Faced with church issues, Sister María supported several students and young people who participated in the student movement and families who were victims of abuse and barbarism by the Mexican government. But that did not demobilize Sister Maria, encouraged her to continue her work and gave her great strength to face the chain of challenges that threaten the continuity of her work.
Today, the name of Sister Maria del Carmen is associated with the Instituto de Promoción y de Acción Comunitaria (IAP), better known as PACO. This organization is dedicated to serving abandoned and vulnerable children and homeless youth. It also contributes to the struggle against sexual abuse, drugs and other forms of exploitation. PACO offers lodging, helps find social and medical services and provides training in view of finding employment.
Community organizations active in the same spheres acknowledge that during her 58 years of uninterrupted service, Sister Maria successfully contributed to transforming and pacifying the Aquiles Serdan Quarter, reducing delinquency among young people, decreasing drug sale and consumption and to restoring the rights of more than 45,000 lives: children, girls, adults and the elderly.
At 85 years of age, this woman bequeaths to us a call for increased tolerance, compassion, solidarity, assistance and social inclusion.
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