Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela: Food For The Poor, Minuto de Dios Join Forces to Help Migrants in Colombia
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (July 30, 2019) Food For The Poor is partnering with Minuto de Dios, a Colombian nonprofit organization, to bring relief to families in Colombia, including tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants who have fled to escape shortages of food, water and medicine.
As many as 30,000 people a day from Venezuela pass through the Colombian border city of Cucuta. Some only stay for a day to buy food and medicine and then return to Venezuela. Others remain homeless on the streets or continue on foot to look for opportunities elsewhere in Colombia or other countries.
"Venezuela is not a country to which we have needed to send aid before, it is a country of extreme natural wealth, and yet, its people are starving," said Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma. "Venezuela's neighbor, the nation of Colombia, despite its own economic fragility, has welcomed these refugees seeking asylum from their countries and their troubles. How could we ignore this situation?"
A Food For The Poor team recently visited Colombia to see the face of the growing crisis and met Carmen, a 37-year-old mother and elementary school teacher who sold everything she owned to migrate to Colombia with her daughters, Falete, 11, and Cielo, 1.
Carmen left Venezuela because she could no longer afford to feed her family on a meager teacher's salary of less than $9 a month, not even enough to buy a dozen eggs. They were forced to drink from the river because there was no clean water where they lived.
Home, now, is a concrete sidewalk near a feeding center run by the Catholic Diocese of Cucuta. There, they can receive breakfast and lunch, including MannaPack rice casserole meals.
"I can't believe you have to flee your country because of hunger and lack of medicines," Carmen said.
Dr. Alonso Ortiz, Executive Director of Minuto de Dios, said more than 4 million Venezuelans such as Carmen and her two daughters, have fled their country as its economy has collapsed.
More than 1 million have settled in Colombia and nearly a quarter of them are homeless.
"We anticipate Syria's refugee numbers, which will result in a profound humanitarian crisis," Ortiz said.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, more than 5.6 million people have fled Syria since 2011.
Food For The Poor began serving in Colombia in 2014, working primarily with the Order of Malta, one of the oldest lay religious orders of the Catholic Church.
The Order of Malta has delivered MannaPack from the Colombian port city of Cartagena, where it is loaded and hauled on trucks on a 10-hour, 450-mile journey through the mountains to Cucuta.
In Cucuta, MannaPack is stored in a food bank and distributed to 11 feeding centers, serving almost 8,000 people daily, including families like Carmen's. MannaPack is a rice casserole meal of dried vegetables, vitamins and soy that can be cooked like rice. The meals are packed by volunteers at events around the United States hosted by Feed My Starving Children, another Food For The Poor partner.
As the number of migrants continues to rise, the need for more aid and long-term sustainable solutions, from safe, secure homes to counseling, training, and the tools necessary to hold jobs and earn an income, is growing.
"Minuto de Dios has four main tenets: emergency relief, emotional and mental health, economic stability and self-sufficiency. There is a good synergy between our organizations," said Ed Raine, Executive Vice President of Food For The Poor. "We're very excited about this potential."
For 60 years, Minuto De Dios has been dedicated to providing counseling, job training and homes to poor families while empowering them to manage their own success and development.
The organization got its name from one-minute radio spots, which later moved to TV, where Fr. Rafael García Herreros would discuss a specific religious topic for exactly one minute. The program has continued uninterrupted after his death in 1992. After 61 years, more than 13,000 segments have aired.
"To join an organization like Food For The Poor is a huge endeavor," Ortiz said. "We have found great synchronicity and union of values, dedication, approach and resolution. Together, we can do so much for the needy here in Colombia."
Carmen said she is grateful to Colombians for opening their hearts and their border to Venezuelans. But she worries about her oldest daughter, whom she hasn’t been able to enroll in school.
"I want so badly a future for my children. I imagine the simple things such as being able to give Falete a breakfast to start her day at school," Carmen said. "I feel impotent because I can’t do anything about it," she said.
To help Venezuelan migrant families in Colombia, go to www.FoodForThePoor.org/crisis
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for orphaned or abandoned children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
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