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Hardship and Hope: Venezuelan Migrants Share Their Stories

A woman and a child sit in a tent.

Photo: © Josh Estey/CARE

Photo: © Josh Estey/CARE

More than 5.4 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2014 due to the manmade economic and humanitarian crisis. Migrants’ journeys tell a story of hardship and adversity, but also hope for the future of a better life.

The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has forced millions of people to make one of the toughest decisions of their lives: Leave everything they know behind, including homes and families, to start over in a foreign country. For many, the decision to leave, and the treacherous journey that follows, is a price worth paying for better education for their children, more job opportunities, and less insecurity.

But what is it really like to be a migrant and refugee? CARE spoke with three Venezuelan migrants living in Pamplona, Colombia, on what motivated them to leave home, what their hopes are for the future, and what they want other people to know about being a migrant.

Yuleidy Yuleisi Diaz Perez

“I consider myself a warrior woman.”

I have been in Pamplona for two years now. I came from Barquisimeto, Lara State in Venezuela with my mother, son and three nephews. It was tough because when you leave Venezuela, you leave everything. But my biggest motivation was my son. I fought for him because in Venezuela, when I had to take him to his pediatrician, I had no way to cover those expenses, especially because he gets seizures, and it was very difficult for me to buy [his medication] there.

Since everything was expensive [in Venezuela], we did not have enough to make ends meet, we only had enough to eat. [COVID-19] is hitting pretty hard [in Venezuela.] We already suffered the loss of a friend here. My father told me that a mask costs $3, but people do not buy masks because they can buy some flour [with that money]. I hope that we pay more attention to the coronavirus that is hitting very hard and harder for those people [in Venezuela] who have no way to cover anything. They go to the pharmacy and everything is expensive, and the doctor just prescribes medicine over and over, but how do they buy it?

[My hope is] that [people] do not undermine us, even though we are immigrants, we are human beings just like them. I value myself. I consider myself a warrior woman. I thank Pamplona for sheltering us all who came walking. And support, that’s what I ask for. Support because it hurts to go out and see the children cold, they don’t have a blanket and they sleep on the street because with what money will [their parents] pay rent? It hits my heart so much, maybe because I am a mother and I see those children, then you see yourself reflected… children and mothers and grandparents that you really wouldn’t want to see like that. The situation over there hit hard, but carry on, that’s what I say.

Every day there is a constant stream of migrants passing in each direction, at the border crossing between Venezuela and Colombia in the city of Cucuta on May 8, 2019. Some are pendulum migrants working and living in both places and others who have come to flee Venezuela.

Roxana Natali Artega

“One leaves … for our children, so that they have a better future.”

I came with my son and my now ex-husband. We came because the situation was very hard, the business we had no longer gave [yield], we had to close it and emigrate to give my son a better life, a better education, and food because he was already very thin. The trigger [for leaving] was the economic situation. My business was not enough anymore. We did not know whether to buy merchandise or buy food, because every day the [prices] went up.

Now, we already have other ventures and we are going to be able to start another business like the one we had in Venezuela. [My son] is in second grade and very intelligent. My mother, she was left alone, but it is our wish to bring her. We need the tranquility that our mother gives us.

[My hope] is above all help for the Venezuelans who are arriving. I have seen many people who are arriving on foot, I have seen them with open wounds on their feet from walking so much. Sometimes they are elderly people, pregnant woman … the other day I saw a boy who was in a wheelchair who came with his brother and the man said he had gone two days without eating. One leaves, more than anything, aside from hunger, for our children, so that they have a better future.

Dayan Anabel Perez

“I have managed to overcome my barriers and thank God I am still fighting to get ahead.”

I decided to leave my country because of the situation in which I was living. I had a job – I was in charge of a deli – but every day the cost went up and business was decreasing, and I had to resign. My son has a psychomotor delay and in Venezuela, a medical, neurological, pediatric consultation is very expensive. But I continue in the fight with him and supporting him day by day. Also, I experienced domestic violence from my son’s father and when I arrived here in Pamplona, I found CARE, which has helped me with phycological and legal consultations.

For me, it was not easy to leave my country, since [it is] home, and to come to a country where you do not know their customs, you have to adapt. But since I have been here for a year and a half, I have managed to overcome my barriers and thank God I am still fighting to get ahead.

My hope is that [people] help Venezuelan migrants anywhere, that they help us get started. There are many Venezuelans who want to get ahead, have a decent job and earn a salary that anyone earns. My hope is that all Venezuelans who are out of our country today can have a good job or some organization will support us in getting started.

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