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 don’t normally meet on the day-to-day basis, but because there was this community project, led by the community, it brought different people together.”
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