Edgar Antonio Bracho is a twenty-three-year-old man from Yaracuy de San Felipe, Venezuela. "I left my country because I wanted a better future. You can't live there," he explained. Edgar is one of two million Venezuelan refugees who have fled to neighboring Colombia in recent years to escape violence and economic insecurity. An economic crisis in Venezuela has left many families like Edgar's struggling to afford food, medicine, and basic services.
A Treacherous Journey
Edgar left Venezuela on foot to seek a better life in Bucaramanga, Colombia. “They live by God’s mercy [in Venezuela],” Edgar said, sadly. “They have to work for a week just to eat for a day. One lives there, as God wills.”
“I came here by foot with some friends, inch by inch, walking carefully. It was difficult. If you get lost or separated, you don’t know what will happen, where it will happen, or to whom. I spent three or four days walking in the sun, enduring hunger and the rain. I slept wherever I got sleepy, just laying down on the [ground], but at any moment, somebody could come and kill you.”
“I left my country because of the economy and the government. I wanted a better future. You can’t live there. Only those who are plugged into the government can. Over there, you live in misery. We used to work cutting cane, and we had to work for a week to earn a day’s wages. In Venezuela, I have to work for a year to afford the food I eat in one day here in Colombia.”
Supporting Venezuelan Refugees
GOAL is implementing the Barrio Resiliente (Resilient Neighborhoods) project in Colombia to support the influx of Venezuelan migrants into Riohacha, Barranquilla, and Bucaramunga. It’s a comprehensive approach to reducing risk to vulnerable refugees and host communities through skills training and economic development initiatives. GOAL staff also help Venezuelan refugees register for legal residency, which helps protect migrants from discrimination and exploitation.
The Barrio Resiliente approach also seeks to mitigate the risks of rapid, unplanned urban expansion by helping communities prepare for emergencies and disasters, such as storms or landslides, which pose the greatest risk to refugees living in informal urban settlements.
Edgar first arrived in Cúcuta, a Colombian border town that is the first stop for many Venezuelan migrants on their journey towards a better life. There, he met GOAL staff at a community house, and they helped him register with the local government. “I participated in a drill, where they helped us prepare for accidents and disasters. They teach you that you have to stay calm. They teach you so many things. [GOAL] opened doors for me, and I am still here,” Edgar said, proudly.
A Dream Fulfilled
The support Edgar received from GOAL allowed him to thrive in Colombia, and he was eventually able to fulfil one of his greatest dreams – to be able to bring his siblings and mother to Colombia and offer them a better quality of life. “With my mother here, I feel strong and empowered to move forward. She supports me and is here motivating me. I am so happy with her here. Happy that I am going to spend Christmas with her after four years. I will have a happy Christmas this year,” he said, smiling.
“To migrate is to fight,” he said. “To fight, to leave, to look for a better future and to do well.”
You can help support families like Edgar’s, who are far from home this Christmas, with a donation today.