Colombian churches open their arms to displaced families

RefugeesWorking through the local churchVenezuelaColombia

The neighbourhood next to where Ingrid lives in Colombia had been abandoned for a long time. The risk of landslides meant it was too dangerous for most people to call it home. But then a group of Venezuelan families moved in. And so began an incredible friendship between two neighbourhoods, led by the local church.

New neighbours
According to the UN, over 4 million people have fled Venezuela – over 13 per cent of the population – since the socio-economic crisis began. With the loss of jobs and a lack of food and medicine, many people felt they had no choice but to flee to neighbouring countries like Colombia to try and make a better life.

Those arriving into the neighborhood from Venezuela arrived with very little. They built their new homes with wood, plastic and whatever other materials they could find. Although they have roofs over their heads, they live between mountains of rubbish, causing all sorts of health problems. Many suffer from respiratory diseases and skin infections.

Ingrid visits the neighbourhood next to her church where displaced Venezuelans fled to.

Ready to serve
Ingrid works as a social coordinator for her local church. When she saw the need of her new neighbours she began looking into how her church could support them and show them God’s love in practical and compassionate ways.

It was during this time that the church began to work with Tearfund. Through this partnership they have set up a project which provides the Venezuelan community with medical care and food vouchers. They also run a daily canteen for the children.

‘When I worked to help others with only the resources from the church, my reach was very limited,’ says Ingrid. ‘But now that we receive support from Tearfund, God allows us to provide a superior service. I never imagined impacting so many lives. Everytime I hear a child saying how delicious the food is, I feel God saying: ‘daughter, you are doing a great job!’

There are currently 186 children receive support through the church. Many of them had before been diagnosed as chronically malnourished. But now, thanks to this project, they are overcoming this condition and learning vital hygiene practises too.

One of the children that Ingrid’s church supports eating a nutritious meal that's been provided by the church.

Children’s lives transformed
When the children first arrived they would sit on the floor to eat their food, instead of at the tables. They would also eat everything with dirty hands. Ingrid and her team taught the children about the importance of washing their hands before eating, to prevent diseases and infections.

Their parents are overjoyed at the transformation they’ve seen in their children. Not only has their health improved, but they have been growing in their relationship with God, and with their neighbours. They all thank God for the food before they sit down to eat together.

‘[My] heart is filled to know that parents trust us to take care of their children,’ Ingrid continues. ‘In general, this has been my opportunity to grow as a person and daughter of God and say once again: I am witness to the wonders and immense love of God.’

Tearfund has been partnering with churches like this across Colombia to support local communities to respond to the challenges they face. Our local partners continue to provide food, healthcare and psychological support to those in need. They are also taking care of vulnerable children, finding them places in schools or daycare and providing them with safe spaces for play.

PLEASE PRAY

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for Ingrid and her church who are working with Tearfund to help their new neighbours through this ministry. We pray that you will bless the work they’re doing.

We lift up all the families that have fled Venezuela, we pray you will keep them safe, give them refuge and hope for the future.

And as Jesus commands us to love our neighbours as ourselves, we ask you to highlight people and ways in which we can reach out to show your love to others in practical ways.

Amen.

Andrea Villarreal
Andrea Villarreal is the Latin America and Caribbean Cluster Communications Officer. Email: andrea.villarreal@tearfund.org