V E N E Z U A L A N   R E F U G E E S

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W H A T ’ S    H A P P E N I N G ?

The number of Venezuelans fleeing their country as refugees has surpassed 4 million and is growing every day. This exodus is the single largest population displacement in the region’s recent history. Strictly by homicide rates, Venezuela is currently the third most dangerous country in the world. Inflation and food shortages are so severe that even a lawyer’s or a doctor’s monthly wages are not enough to buy a kilo of rice. People continue to flee the country to escape violence, human rights violations, and crippling shortages of food, medicine, and essential services caused by the ongoing political and socio-economic crisis. Venezuelans who can’t afford transportation literally begin walking away from the rubble of their homeland in desperation. Entire families make the journey on foot, their scarce belongings on their backs and their small children in their arms. They survive by sleeping on sidewalks and in alleyways, eating whatever they can find or forage along the way. 

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Coming from the Caribbean tropical lowlands, the first challenges they face are the high passes and the endless highlands of the northern Andes. At elevations of +5000 m. the air is thin, the strong wind is omnipresent, and temperatures drop below 0º Celsius during the night. Those who make it past these brutal conditions face a long and dangerous journey through the Colombian heartland where robbery, rape and human trafficking are very real dangers. It takes approximately 45 days of walking to reach our location on the border of Colombia and Ecuador.

S L E E P I N G   O U T S I D E

70% of the people who arrive at the Ecuadorian border crossing at Rumichaca are young women with multiple small children, predominantly toddlers and infants. Upon arrival, most of the families who have made this tortuous journey are in rough shape. Families arrive exhausted, starving, their tropical clothing painfully insufficient for the high mountain cold of Southern Colombia. They wait in line for hours at the border and then discover the soul crushing reality: that they will have to wait at the border for days and often even weeks for the various wheels of immigration to turn. There are no tents and there is no food distributed. People build makeshift shelters out of boxes, plastics, and whatever else they can find. Families sleep outside on the pavement in nighttime temperatures around 5º Celsius. It rains on a near daily basis, soaking their belongings and causing widespread hypothermia and illness especially for the young and weak. They are hungry, cold, exhausted and confused, afraid of what will happen next and in urgent need of help.

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Rumichaca is a simple border-crossing that is currently receiving an enormous influx of Venezuelan refugees. There is no official refugee camp here and it is because of this that services are severely restraint. Aid organizations such as the Red Cross, Unicef, World Food Program, and ADRA are all here, but their resources are limited and profoundly insufficient for the need. Most of their efforts are focused on obtaining legal status for these refugees. The small amount of humanitarian aid these organizations are able to provide is less than 15% of what is so desperately needed at this time.

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W E   A R E   H E R E   T O   H E L P

We purchase clothes, food, blankets, plastic covers against the rain and hand them out.
Every day.
It’s clear and simple aid that cuts straight to the heart of the matter.
We see a need and we fill a need. Simple as that.

We work hand in hand with the humanitarian organizations present, working to fill the gaps on the limited services they are able to provide. Often we do what they wish they could do, but don’t have the flexibility or resources to accomplish.

Together we make it happen in a creative way, without conflicting with their policies or protocol.
We organize food-programs and support the development of comprehensive refugee shelters.
Perhaps most importantly, we work to create awareness in a poor and underdeveloped community that is overwhelmed with non-legal displaced persons in very large numbers.
All this with the participation of a growing number of local game changers.

Please help.