The abandoned neighborhood that became a refuge
In Colombia, a neighborhood prone to landslides had long been abandoned. Locals refused to live there because it was considered too dangerous. But for the Venezuelan people who had nowhere else to go, the neighborhood would be the place where they made a new home for themselves.
As of March 2020, nearly 5 million people have fled Venezuela since the socio-economic crisis began. With the lack of food and medicine and little opportunity to make a living, many people felt they had no choice but to flee to neighboring countries – like Colombia – in hopes of a better future.
When the Venezuelans began arriving to the abandoned neighborhood in Columbia, they had very little provisions. Using wood, plastic, and whatever other materials they could find, they built makeshift houses. Although the refugees have roofs over their heads, they live between mountains of trash, causing all sorts of health problems. Many suffer from respiratory diseases and skin infections.
Tearfund is working with a local church near the neighborhood, where Ingrid works as a social coordinator. Seeing the needs of her new neighbors, she began looking into how her church could support them and show them God’s love in practical and compassionate ways.
Partnering with Tearfund, Ingrid’s church set up a project which provides the Venezuelan community with medical care and food vouchers. They also run a daily feeding program for the children. Ingrid remembers that when the children first arrived, they would sit on the floor to eat their food, instead of at the tables. They would also eat everything with dirty hands. Ingrid and her team taught the children about the importance of washing their hands before eating, to prevent diseases and infections.
“When I worked to help others with only the resources from the church, my reach was very limited,” says Ingrid. “But now that we receive support from Tearfund, God allows us to provide a superior service. I never imagined impacting so many lives. Every time I hear a child saying how delicious the food is, I feel God saying: ‘daughter, you are doing a great job!’”
Andrea Villarreal, Tearfund’s Communications Officer overseeing the Latin America and the Caribbean region, reports that 186 children are currently receiving support through the church. Many of them had before been diagnosed as chronically malnourished. But now, thanks to this project, they are overcoming this condition and learning vital hygiene practices too.
Tearfund has been partnering with churches like this across Colombia to support local communities to respond to the challenges they face. Our local partners continue to provide food, healthcare and psychological support to those in need. They are also taking care of vulnerable children, finding them places in schools or daycare and providing them with safe spaces for play.