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U.S. partners support Venezuelan refugees and their host countries
June 17, 2020

A smiling woman scans an item at a store counter
Thanks to ADRA’s livelihood support, this Venezuelan migrant works in a bakery in Brazil. (© ADRA)

Venezuelans who fled their country to escape poverty, political repression and crippling inflation caused by the illegitimate Maduro regime struggle to support themselves.

That’s why the United States is funding nongovernmental organizations to help displaced Venezuelans start new careers in new countries.

The U.N. estimates more than 5.1 million Venezuelans have left their country since the humanitarian crisis began in 2015. Most traveled to other South American countries including Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.

A woman in a flowered dress with her arm around a young boy
This Venezuelan mother works at an ice-cream shop in Salvador, Brazil. (© ADRA)

Adventist Development and Relief Agency International is a partner of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that helps connect Venezuelans to career opportunities in Brazil. Since June 2019, ADRA International has helped over 1,100 individuals, or about 403 households, through their SWAN program — “Settlement, WASH, and Non-Food Assistance.” (WASH is an acronym for “water, sanitation and hygiene.”)

“ADRA helps Venezuelans find jobs in just about anything that’s available,” said Helena Souders, the program manager for ADRA. “So far, we’ve helped them find jobs as clerks, general service assistants, production line workers, stock replenishers, shop assistants, truck-loading assistants, furniture assemblers, seamstresses, baker assistants, and more.”

U.S. State Department and USAID partners in Colombia and Peru are doing similar work for displaced Venezuelans in those countries.

In Peru, the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration provided nearly $4 million in 2019 to Cooperative Assistance for Relief Everywhere, RET International and the Norwegian Refugee Council. The groups provide health services and livelihood support to Venezuelans settling in Peru.

And in Colombia, where there are over 1.8 million displaced Venezuelans, the State Department partner United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works with partners in the city of Medellín to train Venezuelans to run their own small businesses. Through UNHCR’s Graduation Model and Cash-Based Interventions, 4,300 of the most vulnerable Venezuelan refugees and migrants will learn about financial management, accounting, legal registration and marketing, in addition to skills training so they can start their own businesses or find employment in the area.

Lisbeth Marcano and her husband migrated from Venezuela to Medellín in 2018 so her husband could receive medical treatment following a serious accident. But Lisbeth, a former teacher, had trouble finding steady employment. She cobbled together around $40 monthly from several odd jobs when it costs $250 to keep a roof over their heads and basic food on the table. The family pooled their savings to start a bakery, but they were hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown and had to close it. With the help of UNHCR’s program, they received a grant to buy supplies and reopen their doors.

“Thanks to this push, we had a new way of dreaming,” Lisbeth said.