Refugees and Migrants – December 15 2022

Walking towards a new future

Aracely* and Miguel* left Venezuela with their five children on foot. They walked nearly a week, enduring hunger, rainstorms and the freezing temperatures of the Paramo mountains before crossing the Colombian border.

Despite the hardships of the journey, their decision to leave Venezuela was never in doubt.

 “I came here to fight for my children, to give them a better life, to give them food, a better education,” says Aracely.

“It is because of them that I am here. I have walked for them, in difficult circumstances, you cannot imagine.”

The couple and their children – ages 15, 14, 10, 12 and 7 – are among the 6 million refugees and migrants who have left Venezuela. The sheer number makes it the second-largest external displacement crisis in the world, according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

Their story is similar to that of many Venezuelans who left since a socioeconomic and political crisis crippled the country. People flee because of the shortage of food, employment and security, even if it means walking.

Though Miguel and Aracely could earn a living in Venezuela – she selling coffee and he working construction jobs – the meager earnings meant that they lived hand to mouth. "One day I got a few dollars and that was only enough to eat that day and the next day I had to go out to look for a few more dollars to eat the next day," says Miguel.

However, the decision to leave was mainly because three of their children have asthma. In Venezuela, Aracely says they could not get the proper medicine and treatment.

"It's hard, because it's difficult to get medication there, see doctors, everything is difficult. Everything is difficult now; nothing is like it used to be," she says.

The family arrived at the SOS Children's Villages shelter in Santander, Colombia and were transport from the Paramo to the shelter, to prevent them from continuing to walk and being further affected by the inclement weather.

Since 2018 over 73.000 people have passed through the SOS Children's Villages shelter in Santander, Colombia. Some receive support for transportation, others shelter for a couple of days, counselling, psychological care, food and some supplies to help them continue their journey.

Hope is the last thing to be lost and that is especially so for families who have lost all their material belongings. Still, they remain united and in search of a better future.

Aracely dreams of getting a job so she can give her children the life they want and leave these times behind as a distant memory.

Miguel hopes that one day his children will understand why they made this decision.

"I hope they will be professionals who are okay with the fact that I made them leave their country so that they could get ahead in life."


*Names changed to protect privacy


Mónica García Z. / Global Correspondent LAAM