As the father of three teenage sons most conversations at my house these days begin with “Dad, I need…” followed by an urgent request that is almost always a “want” and rarely a “need”.
I recently returned from the Venezuelan border where I spent the week with the “caminantes”, or walkers, whom the entirety of their lives is spent pursuing their most basic need, food.
These walkers have all recently left their homeland of Venezuela and can be found on the major highways between the Venezuelan border and Colombian cities. Each of these Venezuelans that we talked to shared nearly identical stories of no access to food or medicine, frequent power outages and an ever increasing threat of violence in Venezuela, leaving them with no other option than to flee.
During my first visit to Cucuta a year ago, many of the Venezuelans walking the highways were young men looking for a way to provide food for their extended families back home. During my most recent visit there was an obvious increase in the amount of women and children walking the highways of Colombia. In addition to an increase in women and children walkers, the frailty of their physiques is obvious as the years of lack of access to food has withered many of them down to gaunt parodies of who they were.
On the highway between Cucuta and Pamplona, Giving Children Hope encountered the Flores family. The Flores’ had crossed into Colombia 20 days earlier, and with their two young daughters, 2 years old and 10 months, had been renting floor space in Cucuta, Colombia with a dozen other Venezuelans. Their days were spent selling candy to passing cars, with the hope of making enough money to eat and pay the daily floor space rate.
Two days prior they hadn’t made enough to pay their daily rent, and the homeowner kicked them out, confiscating their baby’s clothes as collateral for the previous night’s unpaid bill.
As we drove up a windy mountainous road we first saw the Flores’ crouched over a stroller tipped on its side. The father, Enyenbar, was bent over with a piece of wire trying to re-attach a broken wheel as his wife hovered over holding the two girls. We pulled over to offer assistance, providing an opportunity to be invited into their story.
After offering food and water, we ushered them off of the highway and they shared with us their story. They told us of their eviction, their daily survival, but that they had an uncle now living in Ecuador who had offered them shelter and a possible job. They were two days into a 700 mile journey with no money, phone or food and their stroller which intermittently carried children now had a bum wheel and was no longer an asset in their journey.
Over the following hours as we engaged and verified their story, Giving Children Hope was able to provide food, new clothes for the children and bus tickets to Ecuador for the entire family. Enyenbar used our phone to text his mother and uncle and let them know what was happening. In her response to him she asked, “who are these people?’ to which he replied, “I don’t know, I think they might be angels.”
While I can verify we definitely are not angels, the opportunity to meet this families urgent needs felt divine.
But sadly, nothing about the Flores’ story is unusual or out of the ordinary for the thousands of Caminantes that flee Venezuela every day and the millions more inside Venezuela with no access to food. A life of survival is the norm in Venezuela as the failed policies of its government continue to drive families into levels of poverty unseen in this part of the world before and the only hope of survival for many them and their families is to leave the country.
As a father, I enjoy the opportunity to provide for my children’s needs and their wants. Just like many of those that I met on the roads of Colombia I can’t comprehend a situation where the opportunity to do so wouldn’t be afforded to me. For the past three years Giving Children Hope has been assisting families in Venezuela by providing food, medical resources and hygiene products. We are currently feeding 8,000 people a week in Venezuela.
But we need your help. Giving Children Hope has a goal of sending 1 million meals into Venezuela in 2019. We have currently sent over 250,000 meals this year and have more ready to send but we need your help to get the food there. Each shipping container of food costs approximately $10,000 to ship into Venezuela. Would you consider helping us with these transportation costs? These weekly meals are the only food source for many of the families we are feeding.
Please join Giving Children Hope in providing 1 Million Meals to the Venezuelan people in 2019.