As the economic and political crisis in Venezuela continues, thousands of refugees have been spilling over the border into Colombia and many of them—-50,000 so far—- have found their way to Medellín. Fr Peter writes:
” Three countries – Colombia, Brazil and Guyana – share land borders with Venezuela, but at 1,378 miles its longest border is that with Colombia; and it is Colombia that has been experiencing the most acute effects of this human “spillover”. In an interview on Bloomberg TV on 23rd April 2018, Mr Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s outgoing President, said that the number of Venezuelan refugees who had entered his country had reached over 1,000,000. He pointed out that this number was double the total number of Syrian refugees who had entered Europe.”
That was in April. In the 4 months since then the refugees have continued to arrive, at the rate of 115,000 a month, yet how little we hear on the news about it! And how little help Colombia has received to deal with the crisis. Of course thousands of the refugees are children, many of whom are suffering from malnutrition and none of whom have school places.
The problem is made worse by the fact that many of the refugees are people who had degrees and once had good jobs in Venezuela. They have no experience of street-life and don’t know how to survive on the street. Fr Peter tells of the experience of our staff:
“For example, amongst those whom the staff of Funvini have found struggling to survive by begging or by selling sweets on street-corners in Medellín have been a psychologist, two public-relations communicators, an accountant, two nurses and two business-administrators. They need to earn at least COP25,000 (about £6.50) a day in oder to be able to pay for a room and one meal. They are frequently propositioned, but if they turn to prostitution it is said that they have to try to undercut the local girls by charging lower prices.”
It is an enormous problem for a country that already has its own huge internal refugee problem to try and deal with, so what is Funvini doing?
Funvini is, of course, limited by the amount of funds it has but nevertheless it has been helping the Venezuelan children since 2017. Here is Fr Peter’s account of what has been achieved so far:
“In 2017, Funvini took on a Venezuelan social-worker who was married to a Colombian and able to work legally. This was a temporary measure, in order to make it easier to reach out to the refugees and to gain their confidence. This initiative helped at least 50 of them, including 25 children from 20 different families. The help provided took many forms, such as :
gifts of groceries and clothing;
two meals for the children every weekday at Casa Walsingham;
help with access to emergency healthcare;
help with obtaining school places;
help with rent;
help with documentation;
bus fares for two families wanting to join family members in other parts of Colombia; and
bus fares to Venezuela for a father and three children who needed to obtain legal documents there.
Some of the families were found to be surviving on a diet of rice and plantains. In some cases, the children were so malnourished that they needed medical help to enable their systems to adapt again to a normal diet.
The Venezuelan social-worker left Funvini at the end of the year, but the work with the refugees has continued in 2018, and special meetings are being held periodically at Casa Walsingham to bring the Venezuelan families together for mutual support. The Trustees were pleased to hear about these initiatives, but it is clear that Let The Children Live! will have to find additional resources if Funvini is to be enabled to respond to the needs of the ever-increasing numbers of refugees.”
If you would like to help us you can donate on this website through CharityCheckout, or you can send a cheque to:
Let The Children Live!
PO Box 11
How much help we can give the Venezuelan children will depend on how much support is given to our work.