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Supporting New Arrivals from Venezuela to Colombia

by IsraAID
Supporting New Arrivals from Venezuela to Colombia
Supporting New Arrivals from Venezuela to Colombia
Supporting New Arrivals from Venezuela to Colombia
Supporting New Arrivals from Venezuela to Colombia
Supporting New Arrivals from Venezuela to Colombia
Supporting New Arrivals from Venezuela to Colombia

For almost a year, IsraAID’s team in Colombia has been responding to the ongoing Venezuelan displacement crisis. More than 5 million Venezuelans have left the country due to the worsening humanitarian situation. At least 1.8 million are in Colombia.IsraAID’s team — based in Barranquilla in the Caribbean region — works with Venezuelans, Colombian returnees, and the host community.

Colombia, like almost every other country in the world, is dealing with social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With refugees and other vulnerable populations left with limited access to resources, including education, psychosocial support, employment, and food, our team is working to respond to this rapidly shifting environment, seeking to fill the gaps created by this new normal. The pandemic risks making an already urgent humanitarian situation even worse.

Before coronavirus, our team provided educational and psychosocial support services to about 100 children, including refugees and Colombian returnees from Venezuela, and members of the host community here in Barranquilla, each day. IsraAID’s Child-Friendly Spaces serve as a touchpoint for community work, investing deeply in each child’s resilience, development, and potential to become a leader. During regular operations, IsraAID’s two Child Friendly Spaces provide two daily meals to the children who attend — but now, these children are left even more vulnerable than they were before. These were the main meals of the day for many of these children, whose parents have now been left without an income. Seeking to fill this gap, we are distributing food baskets for families who need this support.

Fewer jobs, and therefore resources, also means that stress skyrockets. Kids notice when their parents are stressed, and too often adults don’t realize that providing stress relief activities for their children can actually offer a similar release for themselves as well. Lockdown also makes it likely that we will see an increase in the number of cases of sexual and gender-based violence, like domestic and child abuse. These were issues before COVID-19 drastically shifted the reality on the ground, but, today, we’re even more concerned.

With these issues in mind, we are being creative in how we provide communities with access to psychosocial support programming in a socially distant way. We delivered resilience kits to 50 households, reaching some 250 beneficiaries. These kits include expressive art materials, educational resources, hygiene items like soap and hand sanitizer, and key messaging to combat misinformation on how COVID-19 is spread and what families can do to keep themselves safe. We’ve distributed and shared pamphlets with key self-care tips and activities that parents and children can do together. We’re leading online activities — such as Zumba classes — and encouraging families who can share their internet access with neighbors who may not be able to attend and connect with others.

Thank you for supporting our projects during this especially challenging time.

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Latin America's worst-every refugee crisis continues, as thousand flee Venezeula across borders, seeking a better life away from inflation and political unrest. Some 4 Million Venezuelans have settled in Colombia, where many are in need of urgent support. As the situation on the ground exacerbates currently existant protection mechanisms, there is a stark need to improve the the framework to ensure that vulnerable communities, including childern, recieve the care they need.

IsraAID's emergency response team first arrived in Colombia in May 2019 to conduct a needs assessment and begin implementing programs to support the influx of refugees. In the subsequent months, IsraAID's team identified high need in the city of Barranquilla, where few other humanitarian actors are engaging in aid work. Since then, IsraAID has established two Child Friendly Spaces to provide daily activities for children, and provide high-quality Protection resources for families and the wider community. 

In November, IsraAID Protection staff ran a training for local community members and service providers on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support tools. 35 leaders and professionals from the community were identified to to participate in the 5-day training, which focused on administering Psychological First Aid, facilitating child-friendly activities to create a safe space for children to express themselves, and basic introduction to case maneagement and how to access the existant referral system for children.

Another set of training, targeting 30 community mobilizers, offered "Introduction to Protection" to increase public awareness of these issues and their capacity in responding to children and other vulnerable community members' needs.

Eight different organizations sent participants in these trainings, including the Ombudsman Office, the Colombian Red Cross, the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare, the office of the governor, Americares, the Childhood and Adolescent Police, and the Ministry of Health.

Through this, and IsraAID's other programming on the ground, we are working to ensure that refugee children and their communities recieve the services they need toward establishing positive lifestyles in their new homes.

Thank you for supporting this work!

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As Latin America’s worst-ever refugee crisis continues, thousands of refugees and returnees have left their homes in Venezuela and crossed the border to neighboring Colombia, seeking safety from rampant inflation and political unrest. IsraAID’s Emergency Response team arrived on the ground in Barranquilla to provide emergency items and protection resources to affected populations.

IsraAID, in partnership with UNICEF and local organizations, opened Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) in two key locations in the Soledad-Barranquilla metropolitan area. According to the ombudsman's office of Barranquilla,80% of children migrants from Venezuela in Barranquilla are not enrolled in school, and the 20% who do attend school attend only in the afternoon hours. As such, these centers provide a first response to children’s needs and an entry point for working with affected communities, seeking to bolster the resilience and wellbeing of children and young people through structured activities.

The activities in both centers aim to raise awareness on protection-related issues in the communities where the children live and provide psychosocial support to children affected by conflict, displacement and emotional distress. This helps to strengthen and rebuild social cohesion among children and in communities—crucial to bridging between Venezuelan migrant and Colombian returnee children and their families.

The two CFSs run throughout the week, offering organized activities for children in a safe space and providing lunch. The CFSs serve 50-60 children each day with local facilitators, an educational coordinator, and a social worker.

IsraAID and its local partner, Techo, built the CFS spaces over the span of a few weekends, coming together to create a space for children to learn and grow.

We saw resilience at a very practical level. And brotherhood. Said one of the volunteers, It was very nice to see the camaraderie between Colombians and Venezuelans from very different social and economic backgrounds. It was very rewarding to see how when your common goal is something bigger than yourself & to serve the community, all those barriers go away. People who dont normally meet on the day-to-day basis, but because there was this community project, led by the community, it brought different people together.

Thank you for your support!!

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Organization Information

IsraAID

Location: Tel Aviv, Merkaz - Israel
Website:
Project Leader:
Molly Bernstein
Tel Aviv, Merkaz Israel

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