Ecuador – June 19 2020

A single mother and her children start a new life in Ecuador

Text and photo by Alejandra Kaiser

Isa, who escaped violence in Venezuela, is seeking asylum in Ecuador. But like other migrants, she struggles to find decent work and to care for her two children. 

Back in Venezuela, Isa feared for her safety when a local militia tried to blackmail her to store weapons at her house. After a few weeks of enduring threats, the single-mother decided she had no choice but to flee with her two children.

She left family and a stable job behind to build a new life in Quito, Ecuador.  

“I am a fighter, I would do anything for my children,” Isa, 35, says while holding her son, two-year-old Leo*. “I just want economic stability to raise them in a safe environment.”

Isa and her children are among the 350,000 Venezuelans who have fled in recent years to Ecuador. While most of them have an uncertain immigration status, nearly 14,000 of them are seeking official refugee status in the country. Isa and her children have applied and since the answer for their application can take years, she is hoping to get a permit that will allow her to find a formal job to avoid exploitation.

For the time being, Isa does not have a work permit and covers her children’s needs with the little she earns selling jelly and doing occasional manicures in a spa in Quito. Being undocumented in the country means long hours of poorly paid work that would not be enough for her to cover day care while she works.

Since October 2019, an SOS social worker and a psychologist have supported the family with counselling and individualised home visits. They have helped guide her through the complicated refugee application process, while at the same time advising her on how to access public services. Her seven-year old daughter, Pati*, started going to school and both children started receiving treatment for ear infections and hepatitis.

Additionally, temporary cash payments allow Isa to rent a small apartment, buy essential goods and food. She also bought tools to offer manicures and the ingredients for the jelly business.

SOS Ecuador has extended the monthly cash payments to Isa and other migrant families due to the COVID-19 lockdown. More than a hundred families in the country benefit from temporary financial support and individualised guidance.

“Although we have been through a lot, I must continue to fight to find stability for my children,” Isa says. “It is a relief that they are healthier, receive treatment and that the older one goes to school.”

*Names changed to protect the family’s privacy

SOS Children's Villages Ecuador is working in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other international organisations to cover the participants’ legal and financial needs.