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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

Colombia currently hosts 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants who have fled economic and political unrest in the country. After crossing the border into Columbia, many of these migrants are left vulnerable and have trouble accessing public health, education, protection, and livelihood services and opportunities.

In the past few months, we have been busy with a number of projects. Here is a brief summary of just a few of them:

Water for Indigenous Communities

Until recently, the Wayuu indigenous community in Manuare, La Guajira walked 3-4 kilometers to access water. Without regular access to safe drinking water, the community often relied on contaminated water or purchased expensive water delivered by boats from Cartagena.
WATCH NOW our video to learn more about this project and the Wayuu community. 

Juntos Somos Resilientes 

We held certification ceremonies in Barranquilla & Cartagena for participants of the online MHPSS course, "Juntos Somos Resilientes." The training targeted three different groups: teachers from the public education system who work with migrants, frontline workers from partner NGOs, and civil servants from the public Child Protection unit. This program provided capacity building and MHPSS training for both professionals and those newer to the field. The training was aimed at expanding their toolkits and professional capacities to respond to specific challenges the community faces, in particular in light of COVID-19.

Seed Capital 

Seed capital was delivered to 14 entrepreneurs in our livelihoods program. After completing business skills training and presenting their business plans, the entrepreneurs received the necessary machines and supplies to start or improve their businesses, which include bakeries, cabinet makers, sportswear manufacturing, and an ice cream parlor. We were honored to be joined by the Mayor's Office of Barranquilla and Secretaría de Desarrollo Económico de Barranquilla

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There have been a lot of exciting Livelihoods activities over the past few months. Below are short summaries of just a few of them.

Psychosocial Workshops

The first cycle of Psychosocial Workshops began on the beach, where 67 participants joined this new initiative to be trained by the IsraAID team, strengthening their individual selves as business owners and valued employees.

With the implementation of these workshops, young people will improve their skills in finance, leadership, communication, and management of emotions, helping them in future recruitment processes, job placements, and management of their business units.

Labor Workshops

The participants of our livelihoods training course continued to strengthen their work and interview skills. This year, this component has an additional digital literacy module that, in addition to improving skills useful in job interviews and technical tests, will provide training and skills to allow participants to be able to face the digital world that has grown in relevance as a result of COVID-19.

Protection Permit Training for Migrants

IsraAID Colombia participated in the massive delivery of Temporary Protection Permits, organized by Migration Colombia and ACNUR. In total, 54 people, of whom 51 were migrants, learned about the benefits of participating in our program, specifically as Venezuelan migrants on the employability track.


Rafael is a young Colombian, part of the host community in La Playa. After completing our Livelihoods program, including psychosocial and labor workshops, he became the first graduate of our program to be hired in 2022 as a Cleaning Operator. Rafael wishes to motivate his colleagues with the following message: “As long as we are with God, everything is possible. We continue forward, even if the road is hard. If I could, you can too”.

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IsraAID first arrived in Colombia in 2019 to support over a million displaced Venezuelans and has remained since, provide livelihoods, protection, medical, and educational opportunities for Venezuelans and host communities.

As inflation and unrest mounted in neighboring Venezuela, entire communities were forced to leave their homes. Many walked across the border to Colombia, where only 40% held legal status. This posed a major barrier to accessing even basic social services and kept legal employment out of reach. IsraAID is one organization among many working to fill these gaps and ensure that communities are able to build a better future for themselves.

The country has an unemployment rate in the double digits, which increased dramatically during the pandemic. IsraAID's livelihoods program in Colombia is a six-week course providing individuals from Venezuelan migrant and Colombia host communities with training in leadership, communication, decision making, labor rights, marketing, and more.

The program offers two tracks: one to help people find employment, and the other to train new or existing business owners.


Mildred is a young Venezuelan migrant with eight years of experience in the preparation of fast foods and frozen food products. After market research, she decided to start a company that produces and distributes these types of products.

Mildred's business, "Filipenses 4:13" is one of the first businesses to come from IsraAID Colombia's Livelihoods Program, specifically from the "Business Strengthening' track. With the support of seed capital, she invested in a freezer, digital scale, steel work table, kitchen utensils and raw baking materials to make her products. She sells her products in local stores and to her neighbors.

From this business, her family now have two income streams. During follow-up visits, it is clear how motivated Mildred is. She still has many goals to meet, including finishing the construction of the family house: “and now with this opportunity I know I can achieve it”, says Mildred.


“I am very grateful for the program because it has allowed me to fulfill my dreams”.

Jefferson is a young Venezuelan migrant, who came to Colombia for better job opportunities. He wanted to open his own motorcycle repair shop but he did not have the necessary equipment and tools to do so. He was one of the first participants of IsraAID Colombia's Livelihood Program, receiving seed capital to buy the necessary equipment for his venture.

Not only did he open a new business, but he also took another big risk by moving his home to be nearer customers. The risks paid off, and he is now a successful entrepreneur, having expanded beyond repairs, and he provides employment opportunities for other young Venezuelan migrants.

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IsraAID has been operating in Barranquilla, Colombia since 2019. Our programs in Colombia provide a holistic response to the acute needs of the mixed migrant communities in the area, focusing specifically on the protection and psychosocial needs of the communities living in Soledad and Barranquilla.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, communities in Colombia have been coping with lockdowns and their consequences: rising rates of gender-based violence, increasing education gaps, on and off lockdowns, and of course, the stress and instability brought on by each of these. In addition, the Barranquilla area was hit by Hurricane Iota in November 2020, and the legal status of many Venezuelans in Colombia was changed drastically in a landmark decision in February, giving them special protective status.

In light of these new and shifting needs, IsraAID established COVID-19 call centers to provide remote information and support. The call center provided a variety of COVID-related services for over 2,000 beneficiaries in the last year. Community members are able to contact the call center through Whatsapp, or through direct phone calls with operators.

IsraAID provided training for the operators, who offered psychosocial support, information on preventing the transmission on COVID-19, up-to-date clarifications about the local guidelines and lockdowns, and referrals to partner organizations in the area who could provide direct assistance with food, shelter, protection, employment, and cash-based assistance. This support is critical for these mixed migrant communities, as they often do not have access to other sources of information and are in urgent need of support to cope with the current circumstances.

Over the last months, IsraAID has recognized a dearth in our operational capacity and began to look for simple solutions that could help the team of operators better track the various data managed by the call center. This includes:

  • The caller’s demographic information – used only for monitoring purposes;
  • The specific services requested by the caller;
  • The date and time of the call;
  • Specific follow up needs per call, and when follow up needs to occur;
  • Various referral services available, including their mechanisms for connecting them with our callers.

IsraAID, in partnership with, an Israeli company offering their online platform and their programmer’s hours in-kind to organizations working on COVID-19 support, is now building an integrated system that will map and offer this information at the click of a button! This process is ongoing and will provide extremely valuable support with tracking, monitoring, follow-up, and referral support for the call center.


Story of Impact

The Nava Aguaran Family arrived in Colombia from Venezuela a little over two years ago. The household is an extended family, with 2 adults and 7 children who have been struggling severely since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The adults have had a difficult time making ends meet, and the family has been forced to live day to day, doing their best.

A member of the family got in touch with our call center and spoke with one of our operators and shared that the family was at risk of eviction. IsraAID’s operator was able to support the family’s needs, connecting them with another local actor through the referral pathway, who was able to cover the family’s rent for six months. This financial aid not only took care of the immediate need, but also allowed the family to look forward, and with a break from the stress of making rent, they were able to establish a micro business and start to work toward financial stability.

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In February, President Duque of Colombia announced that each and every Venezuelan living in Colombia will be granted protective status by the government. This is a huge breakthrough for the 1.7 million migrants living here. It is also a historic moment of recognition for Venezuelans, who are currently the world’s second largest displaced group.

As inflation and unrest mounted in neighboring Venezuela, entire communities were forced to leave their homes. Many walked across the border to Colombia, where only 40% held legal status. This posed a major barrier to accessing even basic social services and kept legal employment out of reach. IsraAID is one organization among many working to fill these gaps and ensure that communities are able to build a better future for themselves, but collaboration between public, private, and non-profit organizations is essential to truly provide the support that is needed.

This influx of new arrivals exacerbated ongoing challenges in Colombia. The country has an unemployment rate in the double digits, which increased dramatically during the pandemic. Limited resources in education, in health care, and in other social services buoyed xenophobia. People crossing the border arrive with serious medical concerns including high rates of malnutrition, while also coping with the emotional stress of leaving their home and rebuilding their lives.

This historic announcement is a gamechanger for our daily work here in Barranquilla, where our teams provide education services, psychosocial support, and livelihood opportunities for these communities. One major issue we faced previously was in providing job training for new arrivals: 60% of Venezuelans did not have the right to work legally. In light of this, we could only provide employment support for the minority who did hold work permits. This often left out those most vulnerable.

It may also affect the composition of our staff team itself. Employing members of displaced communities is a key part of IsraAID’s approach. Now, with legal status available to all Venezuelans, we may be able to hire more Venezuelan staff members than we would have before.

Another example is in education. Our Child Friendly Spaces have been operating for close to two years now, providing a transitionary framework for children before they start in Colombian schools. Previously, children who did not have legal documentation were not eligible for public school. While there were many success stories of overcoming this bureaucratic challenge—and we are incredibly proud of the 85% of our students who did start in public schools—there were always going to be children that would never be able to move on from our program.

The role of our Child Friendly Spaces is now more important than ever. In addition to the legal barrier facing Venezuelan children, enrolling in the public school system requires proof of previous grade completion. Many children from Venezuela were out of the formal education system for multiple years, which created a significant academic gap. Our Child Friendly Spaces’ targeted curriculum streamlines their preparation for the public school system. Now that all children will be legally eligible to enroll, our academic services are even more critical, and will be able to support even more children.

While this announcement will help to push forward integration, additional support is needed to leverage the immense potential it holds. Our teams are preparing to launch awareness raising campaigns to reach currently undocumented Venezuelans and help them step by step through the process to gain legal protection.

The other enormous challenge ahead of us is addressing the social and cultural aspects of this change. While legal integration is confirmed, social integration is not. Combating xenophobia and promoting diversity is critical in this moment—to build a better future for all in our communities. Now that Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Colombia have been granted legal status, this work comes next. We at IsraAID Colombia are excited to play our part.


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Organization Information


Location: Tel Aviv, Merkaz - Israel
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @IsraAID
Project Leader:
Molly Bernstein
Tel Aviv, Merkaz Israel
$28,396 raised of $99,999 goal
111 donations
$71,603 to go
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