Desperate Venezuelans in Colombia Receive Food

April 24, 2019 • Colombia
Venezuelan migrants receive hot food at one of the Samaritan's Purse shelters in Colombia.
Venezuelan migrants enjoy a hot meal at our shelter in La Don Juana.

Samaritan’s Purse is feeding hungry Venezuelans at multiple points in neighboring Colombia.

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Alexandra, her husband Juan, and their 6-year-old daughter have been in Cucuta, Colombia, for several months. They left Caracas, Venezuela, because the situation there had become unbearable.

Alexandra moved from Venezuela to Colombia, but her family is still struggling. They recently received a food package from Samaritan's Purse.

Alexandra moved from Venezuela to Colombia, but her family is still struggling. They recently received a food package from Samaritan’s Purse.

“It was awful,” she said. They lived quite close to the demonstrations that have been roiling the Venezuelan capital, and tensions between police, protesters, and residents had grown. The country’s medical system is broken, and most people don’t even have enough to eat. Young children are dying due to malnutrition and other preventable diseases in what used to be South America’s richest country.

“That’s why we made the decision to come to Colombia,” she said.

In their new home, they are “calmer, quieter.” But life is far from easy. The family is still struggling to put enough on the table. That’s why Alexandra came to a food distribution in March organized by Samaritan’s Purse.

“I came because I need help,” she said. “We’re all in much need.”

Marielba recently fled Venezuela and is staying with relatives in Colombia. She was glad to receive food from Samaritan's Purse.

Marielba recently fled Venezuela and is staying with relatives in Colombia. She was glad to receive food from Samaritan’s Purse.

Juan helps a Colombian business partner sell goods and clothing on the streets. Alexandra stays home with their daughter. They’re living hand-to-mouth.

“My husband goes out to sell every day,” Alexandra said. “He brings something home, but it’s not much. We might be able to eat today, but not tomorrow.”

Alexandra picked up a food package that should last her family a couple of weeks. Packages included rice, flour, cornmeal, oil, salt, sugar, tuna fish, lentils, and beans.

“I thank God,” she said.

Venezuelans Are in Great Need

Just before the borders officially closed in late February, Marielba made the choice to flee her homeland in Venezuela. She arrived in Cucuta about a week before our March food distribution.

“I heard they were closing the border, and I decided to leave my country,” she said.

Magdalena, 74, was grateful for the food she received at a recent distribution.

Magdalena, 74, was grateful for the food she received at a recent distribution.

Marielba is a mother of three, and her oldest, 16, is mentally disabled. The whole family came to live with her cousin in a very small, two-bedroom apartment.

She has no job, so the food she received is “really helpful.” It will also likely be shared with her relatives.

“When I’m staying at a house and I have nothing to give, it’s shameful,” Marielba said.

At another food distribution organized by Samaritan’s Purse a few days earlier, Luis described the desperate situation of people in Venezuela.

“Sometimes we’re eating just one meal a day,” he said. With tears, he spoke of hungry children and deaths reported due to malnutrition and medical shortages.

“We have been praying and asking the Lord for help,” he said. “I thank you.”

Maria, also at the distribution, told similar stories. “I came here to this distribution because of my great need,” Maria said. “It’s getting impossible to buy food.”

Samaritan's Purse is working to make sure desperate Venezuelans receive food at multiple points in Colombia.

Samaritan’s Purse is working to make sure desperate Venezuelans receive food at multiple points in Colombia.

She said she sold her refrigerator and other household items in order to feed her family. Her reasoning: Why do I need a fridge if I have no food? Venezuelans are living day-to-day and have no means to stock up even on basics.

Magdalena, a 74-year-old widow, said she survives on some beans and rice twice a day. To be able to get more food for her family is, in her words, “a blessing God has sent.”

A pastor* who assisted Samaritan’s Purse with logistics for the distribution described the desperation of those who came: “There’s a lot of need. We see the kids who haven’t eaten in two days. The mothers are crying.”

“When the [people] are on their way here, they pray and cry because they know that at least for one month their kids will have something to eat.”

The pastor said he’s involved with the program to help meet both physical and spiritual needs. “I do this for the love of Jesus.”

Hundreds Receive Hot Meals Each Day

In addition to food packages, Samaritan’s Purse is providing hot meals at our two migrant shelters—one in La Don Juana, near Cucuta, and one up in the Andes mountains, in a town called Berlin. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have passed through these aid stations on their way south to Colombian cities such as Bogota or to other countries such as Peru and Ecuador.

“We are so grateful to be able to provide them shelter, a warm meal, and the hope of Jesus Christ,” said Susan Pineda, deputy country director for Samaritan’s Purse in Colombia.

“The [Berlin] shelter is high in the mountains, and most [migrants] are ill-prepared for the cold conditions,” she said. There, the hot soup is especially appreciated.

Angelica came through Berlin with her husband Pedro and 18-month-old son after fleeing Valencia, Venezuela. As they left their home country, almost everything they had with them was stolen.

The young mom noted that our shelters—they had previously stopped at La Don Juana too—were different than some of the others along the route of the caminantes, or walkers.

“Totally different. It’s better in food, the attention,” she said. “We felt really welcome and were treated with dignity.”

In addition to food, they received backpacks and hygiene kits from Samaritan’s Purse. But, the family still has a long road ahead of them. Pedro hoped to find work as a painter in nearby Bucaramanga and then send his family to Ecuador to join other relatives. Once he’s earned enough to start over, he plans to join Angelica and their son there.

“Thank you so much, may the Lord multiply,” Angelica said of her family’s experience at the shelter. “With all my heart we are so grateful.”

*Name withheld for security.

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People waiting to enter Colombia on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in Cucuta.
Help Venezuelans in Crisis Samaritan's Purse is helping to meet the overwhelming physical and spiritual needs of thousands of Venezuelan migrants who are daily entering Colombia. This may be the largest migrant crisis in Latin American history, and we're offering relief from multiple locations—providing overnight shelter, hygiene kits, food, and primary medical care. As we serve, we are pointing people, young and old, to the eternal hope found only in Jesus Christ. Through this response, many are gladly placing their faith in Him.

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