Delivering hope in Colombia

Covid19HungerColombia

It’s 5am. Doors are being knocked on in Barranquilla, Colombia. People answer, still fuzzy with sleep. There are police outside. But something else too... Some wonder if they’re still dreaming as they find bags of food being delivered to them. Packages of hope amidst all the coronavirus fear.

Far from a world of stockpiling freezer food, for many people in Barranquilla existence is a day-to-day struggle. Many vulnerable Colombian families and Venezuelan refugees – who have sought shelter here from the political and economic crisis across the border – rely on being out and about to earn enough money to buy food. ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ is a prayer with a real sense of urgency.

People living here do jobs like selling sweets on the street, or driving taxis or delivery motorcycles. None of this is possible right now. Although quarantine helps keep people safe from a virus, for many here it means an even more insecure future. ‘What will we eat?’ they worry. ‘How will we take care of our children, our old people…?’ 

With no way to get money for food, to pay rent or to disinfect their homes, this adds to the stress and uncertainty being felt across the country – and around the world – about the virus. Anxiety and despair grow as people in Barranquilla face the real fear of overwhelming hunger.

Safe hands
Through our partner Crecer con Amor (which translates to ‘Grow with Love’), Tearfund is bringing hope to these families by delivering food to their homes. By the time the parcels reach the families at 5am, our partner staff have been at work for many hours. 

‘Many people were so excited that they just kept crying when they saw us.’

Adis Marquez, Tearfund partner staff member

The team is on the road by 2am. Food has been carefully selected and sorted into parcels in advance, before being stored in police trucks in a secure parking lot. Time has to be factored in for police checkpoints outside the towns, where they must stop to do a disinfection process on the trucks before being allowed to continue.

‘Some people are so desperate that they’ll throw a log onto the road so that the trucks stop and they can have the opportunity to loot the things inside,’ explains Adis Márquez, who helps to run the project. ‘For this reason, we are always escorted by police and we make the trip very early in the morning because nobody is on the street. That way we can be safer.’

When they arrive, deliveries are done door-to-door to avoid attracting crowds and difficult discussions between those who receive the food and those who do not.

The ministry of chocolate cereal
‘Many people were so excited that they just kept crying when they saw us,’ says Adis. ‘But the cutest reactions were those of the children. The first product visible in the bag was a chocolate cereal. Immediately their eyes widened in surprise and a genuine smile appeared on their faces. They kept thanking us because they felt we had also thought of them by including it. For some, this was going to be the first time they would try that cereal they had seen on television and longed to have.

‘Every time we opened a door, there was a different reaction. Most people were asleep and in the middle of their sleep they were not sure what was happening was real. For many of these families, receiving a food parcel was a dream come true.’

Thanks to this work, many vulnerable families have the peace and comfort of knowing that there is something to eat – and that they are not alone in this battle. However, in an area where accessing enough to feed themselves and their families was a daily challenge before coronavirus lockdown, for many hunger now looms alongside the fear of an unseen sickness.

‘Many people were left out. Although we delivered many food parcels, there are millions of people in need that have not been reached.’

Adis Marquez

Empty handed
‘The most difficult thing for me is when people come to ask us why they do not receive a food parcel if everyone is in need,’ says Adis. ‘Seeing their faces in pain, despair and even anger when asking for help is too painful.’

‘Many people were left out. Although we delivered many food parcels, there are millions of people in need that have not been reached.’

Please will you help us deliver hope in Colombia.

PLEASE PRAY

Heavenly Father, you are our provider. May all those facing fear and hunger know your presence at this time. Please will you give us the strength and resources to serve those in need around us. We pray for our partners in Colombia and around the world as they are your hands and feet, carrying hope and your love to people in very practical ways. Please keep them safe and let them be able to reach many more people. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tarryn Pegna