We all have been affected in multiple ways by this COVID-19 pandemic. The reality of this hard situation has forced us to change our lives and daily routines. As I look at this situation from my community in Bogotá, Colombia, there are certain brothers and sisters who have been particularly affected and are extremely vulnerable: migrants from Venezuela.
Here in Colombia there is a large Venezuelan community that had to flee from their country seeking a better life for themselves and their families. The socioeconomic and political crisis that has ravaged the country for nearly a decade has forced millions to flee to Colombia and elsewhere. Venezuela has suffered from mismanagement of the country’s oil reserves, hyperinflation of the local currency, and an authoritarian government marked by rampant corruption and violent repression. People are unable to access healthcare, food, and other basic services, leading to one of the greatest exoduses of people in this century. As many as five million people have fled Venezuela since 2014.
Those who have made it to Colombia have worked hard and struggled, renting small rooms with the meager amount of money they earn day-to-day, often begging for food or money from people of good will. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has made their difficult lives even more challenging. With Colombia in partial quarantine based on risk areas, they cannot get enough income for their basic needs such as food, rent and medicine.
But even amid this current crisis, there is something that hasn’t changed in our nature as humans, and that is the urge towards solidarity. We have seen many examples of this around the world. Jesuits in Colombia have begun a project inspired by our faith and the call to justice. We invite you to join us in this project.
Jesuits in Bogotá have been visiting migrants in their homes regularly for the last several years, accompanying them spiritually and psychologically, and helping provide for some of the basic needs of recently arrived migrants such as medicine and food. Some of these migrants are in transit, while others seek to help their families in Venezuela. The reality is that they cannot afford all their needs and cover their basic necessities.
The COVID-19 situation has moved our Jesuit community to discern what else we can do for this vulnerable population. We believe that God is calling us to assist the migrants in a deeper and more consistent way. But we cannot do this alone – we need the help and solidarity of others as well. We are reaching out to people for donations to help improve the lives of these migrants in this immensely challenging time for them.
Beyond providing basic necessities such as rent, food and medicine, we want to empower the migrants to be protagonists in their struggle to improve their lives and to grow in resiliency. For this reason, our project seeks to offer a holistic and sustainable formation program that can assure income for themselves in the future. We have received the help and collaboration of Jesuit Refugee Service to assess the complex reality of this migrant population and determine a plan for effective and meaningful support.
The areas where we are planning to help going forward include the following:
- Providing basic necessities such as food, rent, and medicine.
- Promoting income-generating projects that allow the migrants to become more independent.
- Continuing to provide spiritual and psychological formation to help the migrants grow in resilience.
We are grateful to God that we have received some help so far, but we know this COVID-19 situation will affect our community for months to come. More than ever before, we are trying to respond to the call of the former global leader of the Jesuits, Pedro Arrupe, SJ, to “Be men and women for others.”
We invite you to join us in this project. If you want to collaborate, contribute, or learn more, send us an email at [email protected].