This is the story of Sandra Durán, a Venezuelan refugee currently living in Cali, Colombia.
“We have to leave Venezuela,” I said to myself. There were no jobs, and the economy was crashing so fast that it was making food, water, and electricity scarce. With no work, we lacked enough money even for food. Schools were closed most of the time because the teachers couldn’t get to their campuses due to transportation strikes.
In the last few years, I’ve watched our homeland fall apart and lose sight of its people. My family protested against the social security office because we no longer had access to the medicines we needed. One of our friends who recently had a transplant wasn’t even able to receive essential medicine and was put on dialysis. Finally, things seemed to calm down and go back to normal for a month. Then all of a sudden, the medicines stopped arriving, and social security stopped answering. We tried to stick it out as long as we could, but we were dying there.
We decided that the best way for our family to survive was to leave our home in Venezuela and try to start a new life in Colombia. There would be a doctor there who could treat me and prescribe my needed medicines, and it would be easier for me to find a job to help provide for my family. I had a sister already living in Colombia, so at least we would have a familiar face to greet us in a new home.
There were 20 members of my family who set off on the journey to a better life. We were able to take a bus just over the border in Colombia, but the rest of our trip was on foot. We walked 50 miles to Pamplona, which has become a hub for Venezuelans. My niece, who has a leg disability, struggled quite a bit on the journey. After walking many days, we finally arrived in Pamplona. A shelter took all of us in, and they cared for us. They helped my niece and took us to Cali, Colombia, where my sister was living. Just getting to Cali was challenging, but the journey was made a bit easier because of the many people who helped us along the way.
We have been in Colombia for one year now, and the Colombians have been so welcoming, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t had any struggles. While there is more work here than at our home in Venezuela, it’s been difficult for refugees like me to find decent jobs. Most Venezuelans, including myself, sell various small items or clean windshields at traffic lights. We can live off of what we make, but I’m praying I’m able to find a more sustainable job soon.
Even with all of the struggles we are still facing, I thank God that He brought us here. In Cali, AMG International has stepped in, and they are helping me provide for my children. My son and daughter attend programs at the Palmas del Mirador Child and Youth Development Center. They help provide my children with food and education, and they continually demonstrate the love of God during this difficult time in our lives. It’s a gift to me that I would never be able to repay, and my heart is full of gratitude for the national leaders pouring into them.
We plan to stay in Colombia until God leads us elsewhere. We know He is with us each day as we rebuild our lives, and we would not be here if it weren’t for Him.