This year we are sponsoring a refugee family from crisis-stricken Venezuela. This young couple escaped death threats in their home country. The couple support their 2-year-old son who has developmental disabilities, as well as the wife’s mother.
Due to the delicate nature of this situation, we will not be releasing any names or photos of this family in order to protect their identities.
For a list of the family’s needs, click here.
For this year’s fundraiser, I wanted to find and support a refugee family from Venezuela. Venezuela is currently facing one of the largest humanitarian crises of my lifetime, and I meet families on a daily basis who are directly affected by it. As I now work at one of the world’s largest international airports, I have been coming into contact with quite literally hundreds of Venezuelan passengers and loved ones of passengers who are separated from their families, unable to reunite and unable to make contact. Many are terrified and panicked, and my heart hurts for them every day.
An estimated 3 million Venezuelans have fled their country in the last couple of years amidst the current political, economic, and humanitarian crisis. As I write this, the majority of the country of Venezuela is without electricity and clean drinking water. Days like these have been occurring frequently since last year, but it is now the norm for outages to last a week at a time. People are dying of hunger, thirst, heat stroke, and other medical emergencies. Even common illnesses like the flu are proving fatal during a time when medication is sparse and hospitals lack power. With everything in shortage, residents are left with few options.
Those who try to flee by plane are met with cancelled flights. And those who want to return home to Venezuela to help their families experience the same problem. American Airlines, a major servicer of Venezuelan flights, has cancelled all flights to and from Venezuela for the foreseeable future. The smaller charter airlines who continue to service the country only depart a fraction of the time, as I see more and more flights being cancelled last minute. I have lost track of the number of times crying passengers or family members have begged for my help. I imagine this situation is only made worse by not being able to contact those family members for days at a time during a power outage.
I made contact with Gian Marco* and Camila* through an organization called Raices Venezolanas. This kind-hearted, young couple are among the millions who have fled Venezuela. After speaking on the phone with Camila and meeting the family in person, it was clear that they were doing everything they could to better their situation, despite the bad hand they had been dealt.
When they left their home country two years ago, they didn’t have much choice. Not only were they risking their health by staying in Venezuela, they were risking their lives. As a government employee, Gian Marco received death threats from people who knew where he lived. Camila was followed home every day by suspicious men on motorcycles. They had no choice but to flee the country and seek asylum elsewhere. That’s how they ended up in Florida. They were forced to leave so unexpectedly, however, that they came with no savings and basically no belongings.
Life has been ever challenging since the couple arrived. They started out living on the street, until a church family took them in. And just in time, too, because Camila became unexpectedly pregnant. Gian Marco, who has a work permit due to his asylum status, was able to find a job at a baby clothing store. Things started looking up, and the two were able to find their own apartment. However, after a year in their apartment, they fell a month behind on the rent and were asked to leave. To further complicate matters, their young son was starting to show developmental issues, regressing in his early speech development. He was to need therapy in order to help his development along.
Fortunately, they were able to secure temporary accommodations with another local church family, during which time Camila’s mother joined them from Venezuela. The church family further helped by driving Gian Marco to work each day so he could continue saving money for a new living space. Through their determination, the couple found a one bedroom apartment that is affordable enough to cover under Gian Marco’s salary! They will be moving into their new apartment in the middle of April!
The most recent hurdle has been transportation. Leaving the church family means Gian Marco is without a ride to work. They had to spend the balance of their savings to purchase a used car so the family could maintain their sole income. When I met them in person, they had two days of food left, waiting on his next paycheck to arrive April 15th. We bought groceries that night, and Camila cried. There were so many hugs all around.
We found this beautiful family just in time, and I know we are going to change the course of their lives forever.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of this family