Three years ago, 37-year-old Eva del Rosario Escalona said goodbye to her husband and two children. With the Venezuelan economy crippled she left her home to find work over the border in north-eastern Colombia.
Eva arrived in the border town of Puerto Santander with a dream. To earn enough money for her family to join her. To build a new life together.
Eva is one of almost two million Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia in recent years to escape violence and economic insecurity. The economic collapse has led to an acute lack of work, food, medicine, and essential services.
Like most migrants and their families, Eva faced huge challenges when she arrived in Colombia. She struggled to find employment, secure social protection and basic services. As Eva puts it, “It was difficult, they did not want to let us work because we are from another country.”
A family reunited
With help from family members in Colombia, Eva began to sell plastic to survive. And with support from GOAL Colombia she subsequently started an informal business selling knick-knacks and various other products.
After several months working in Colombia, Eva finally managed to save enough money to send home to her husband and two children. Her 12-year-old daughter Elianis and 13-year-old son Daniel have now been able to join her in Puerto Santander. Eva earns enough money from her small business to put food on the table for her family. Life is still a struggle but they are delighted to be reunited, with a chance to build a new life together in Colombia.
Supporting Venezuelan migrants
Eva is one of several thousand Venezuelan migrants benefitting from the ‘Humanitarian Aid to Migrants and Refugees in Colombia for the Venezuelan Crisis’ programme. Funded by Irish Aid, the initiative is delivered by GOAL Colombia and the Swiss agency Fondazione Terre des Hommes.
Under the programme approximately 850 families living on the border of Venezuela and Colombia have received financial assistance, allowing them to prioritise their needs and retain their dignity.
And thanks to this support Eva’s family have been able to meet their basic needs and stock her small business with products.
“I am grateful. But it’s not just me who has benefitted. So many more of us who had to leave Venezuela have been helped. We feel supported. It’s the first time we have received any support.”
Unfortunately, due to the Covid pandemic, the border has been closed and Eva has had to suspend her business. However, she believes that the best thing for her and her family is to continue living in Colombia.
The Venezuelan Migrant Crisis
According to the UN over 5.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country in the past five years. Between 2015 and January 2021 alone, the Venezuelan migrant and refugee population in Colombia rose from 39,000 to 1.72 million.
Although more than 720,000 Venezuelans recently had their status legalised in Colombia, over one million remain undocumented. With so many migrants in legal limbo, they are unable to find work and so rely on the informal economy. As a result, many end up living in precarious conditions, often sleeping on the streets with little or no access to basic services. GOAL teams are continuing to work on the ground in Colombia to support these communities.
GOAL’s Urban Neighbourhood Approach in Colombia
This year GOAL introduced its Barrio Resiliente “Building Resilient Cities through Resilient Neighbourhoods” programme in Colombia. The initiative is supporting communities to reduce risks from urban disaster. And helping to increase the resilience of vulnerable refugees, returnees, and host communities through the urban neighbourhood approach and economic recovery activities.
With support from USAID, the project is targeting more than six thousand inhabitants in neighbourhoods in the Atlántico, La Guajira, Santander, and Norte de Santander Departments. Fondazione Terre des Hommes is supporting the project in Norte de Santander Department.
As well as meeting the humanitarian needs of migrants through economic integration, Barrio Resiliente is promoting inclusion and combatting xenophobia in local communities.
You can support GOAL’s work in Colombia with a donation today.