It’s 5am. Doors are being knocked on in Barranquilla, Colombia. People answer, still fuzzy with sleep. There are police outside. But something else too... Some wonder if they’re still dreaming as they find bags of food being delivered to them. Packages of hope amidst all the coronavirus fear.
For many people in Barranquilla, getting enough food to eat is a day-to-day struggle. Many vulnerable Colombian families and Venezuelan refugees – who have sought shelter here from the political and economic crisis across the border – rely on daily labor to earn enough money to buy food. “Give us this day our daily bread” is a prayer with a real sense of urgency.
People living here perform a myriad of jobs: selling candy on the street, driving taxis, or offering delivery on their motorcycles. But with lockdown in place, this informal work isn’t possible right now. Although quarantine helps keep people safe from COVID-19, for many here it means an even more insecure future. “What will we eat?” they worry. “How will we take care of our children, our old people?”
With no way to get money for food, pay rent, or disinfect their homes, this adds to the stress and uncertainty being felt across the country – and around the world – about the virus. Anxiety and despair grow as people in Barranquilla face the real fear of overwhelming hunger.
Through our partner Crecer con Amor (which translates to ‘Grow with Love’), Tearfund is bringing hope to these families by delivering food to their homes. “Many people were so excited that they just kept crying when they saw us,” says Adis Marquez, Tearfund partner staff member.
The team is on the road by 2am. Food has been carefully selected and sorted into parcels in advance, before being stored in police trucks in a secure parking lot. Time has to be factored in for police checkpoints outside the towns, where they must stop to do a disinfection process on the trucks before being allowed to continue.
“Some people are so desperate that they’ll throw a log onto the road so that the trucks stop and they can have the opportunity to loot the things inside,” explains Adis Márquez, who helps to run the project. “For this reason, we are always escorted by police and we make the trip very early in the morning because nobody is on the street. That way we can be safer.”
When they arrive, deliveries are done door-to-door to avoid attracting crowds and difficult discussions between those who receive the food and those who do not.
“Many people were so excited that they just kept crying when they saw us,” says Adis. “But the cutest reactions were those of the children. The first product visible in the bag was a chocolate cereal. Immediately their eyes widened in surprise. They kept thanking us because they felt we had also thought of them by including it. For some, this was going to be the first time they would try that cereal."
Most people are asleep when the parcels arrive – the families aren’t sure that what is happening is even real. For many, receiving a food parcel is a dream come true.
Thanks to this work, many vulnerable families have the peace and comfort of knowing that there is something to eat, and that they are not alone in this battle. However, in an area where accessing enough to feed themselves and their families was a daily challenge before coronavirus lockdown, for many, hunger now looms alongside the fear of an unseen sickness.