Desperate for survival, thousands flee Venezuela in search of refuge

There is an exodus happening in South America. Thousands of people are fleeing Venezuela in the midst of a crippling economic and political crisis. On the road ahead are countries scrambling to respond to the record-breaking migration. Behind them is a crisis so severe that a month’s salary can’t even buy a day’s worth of food.

Marciela had no way to support her three children back in Venezuela, so she boarded a bus and made a difficult, five-day bus ride across Colombia and Ecuador to reach Peru, where she hopes she will be able to earn a living and someday reunite her family.

Carolyn Barker-Villena, Lutheran World Relief's Senior Director for Latin America & the Caribbean, speaks with Wilfredo, who used to work as a lawyer in his native Venezuela. Since fleeing Venezuela to Peru, he barely gets by as a street vendor.

Wilfredo used to make a decent living as a lawyer in Venezuela. Now he scrapes by as a street vendor in Lima, hoping his temporary visa will come soon so he can look for better work.

As hard as their situations are, Marciela and Wilfredo consider themselves the lucky ones.

Thousands of Venezuelans are arriving in Peru every day. Recently 5,000 arrived in one day, eclipsing the country’s single day record by nearly 40 percent. This has left new arrivals in limbo: stuck in long lines, in open-air, plagued by insects, many with children underfoot – and with no clear relief in sight.

Thanks to your support Lutheran World Relief is working in Lima to renovate reception centers, where Venezuelans can find temporary housing, meals and legal counseling about residence, work permits and other regulations. We are also advocating for the rights of the migrants and supporting services for displaced women and children as they integrate within host communities in Peru.

One of the reception centers — formerly a home for nuns — has been vacant eight years. There is no working plumbing; a series of hoses are the only source of water. The walls are crumbling and there is no furniture. Because of your generosity, the building will soon be renovated with capacity to house up to 20 people.

With your help, we are also working with another local partner that is running a busy food kitchen that currently serves about 50 people a day. With your support, we are helping to renovate the kitchen so that it can feed more people.

Carlos Padrinos talks with Carolyn Barker-Villena, Lutheran World Relief's Senior Director for Latin America & the Caribbean. Carlos and his wife have have been helping to run a reception center that feeds up to 50 migrants a day from Venezuela.

Carlos Padrinos and Sahimar Sanoja, a couple from Venezuela, manage one of the reception centers. They arrived three months ago after their house was looted and Carlos lost his job, forcing their sons to quit college. At the reception center, they met church leaders who asked them to help manage the operation.

“God sent us here,” Carlos said.

You can help

Please support our response to this crisis with a gift today. Help us scale up our efforts to reach out to Venezuelans who have fled to Peru with hot meals and the critical assistance they need to survive.

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