“This isn’t an emergency, this isn’t a temporary situation… We have to strengthen local NGOs and local actors in the field… Why? Because international organizations arrive to provide support, but only for a limited time. It’s not forever.”Lala Lovera, Comparte Por Una Vida, Colombia
Extreme hyperinflation, corruption, and subsequent large-scale shortages of food, medicine, basic healthcare, as well as sporadic electricity and running water, has resulted in over 5 million Venezuelans displaced to neighboring countries. Philanthropy and international aid have, so far, been able to make only a minor dent in the need, funding approximately $214M of the estimated $1.4B required to respond to on-the-ground realities.
In mid-2018, even the libertarian think tank The Cato Institute remarked upon the Venezuelan mass migration situation, in the aptly titled “Venezuela: The Biggest Humanitarian Crisis That You Haven’t Heard Of” blog post. We can analyze and cite many reasons for why there has been such a complacent response to the very real needs of such a large group of refugees moving into receiving countries like Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and the U.S.. But what we have before us, as concerned people working to make sense of our shifting realities in the context of COVID-19 and anti-racist reckoning, is 5 million vulnerable women, children, elders, young men, professionals, laborers, Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendants, LGBTQI+, and families of all ages forced to leave everything they know in Venezuela and try to make a home in places across the Americas with already strained economies and social support systems.
NGOs, local and international, are working quickly to support Venezuelan refugees so they get healthcare, legal assistance, counseling, job training, access to schooling, and, of course, the basics of food, shelter, and hygiene products. Many local governments are also developing economic plans that draw heavily on the contributions of refugees while incentivizing the businesses that offer opportunity to the refugee community. In these times that demand creativity and a rethinking of ‘business as usual’ NGOs are working together with businesses and local governments to develop new kinds of multi-sector pathways for building up the resilience of communities that embrace refugees and work to build prosperity together, leaving no one behind.
As Lala Lovera states in the video for #VenezuelansMovingFwd, our opportunity to help support NGOs working directly with refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers from Venezuela for the greatest impact in the long term is to invest in the local organizations run by and for the community. The region will continue to feel the effects of COVID-19 and social-justice focused reform demands, but the outlook is not entirely bleak. Around the world, refugees have traditionally been an engine of prosperity by opening new business, providing employment, and contributing economically and socially through essential jobs and cultural engagement. The potential impact from supporting the full integration of Venezuelan migrants is similar: research finds that Venezuela’s migration ‘crisis’ could potentially raise GDP growth in receiving countries by 0.1 to 0.3 percentage points during 2017–2030. Culturally, migrants who are welcomed and feel a sense of belonging contribute to our collective story of identity in the Americas and enrich our lived experience.
At Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP), we believe that a strong response from individual donors and the philanthropic sector in the U.S. and beyond can help ensure that Venezuelan refugees are heard and seen, and provided with opportunities to secure livelihoods, raise families, and help sustain thriving communities. Through our Venezuelans Moving Forward (VMF) project, HIP is partnering with funders and NGOs across the region to elevate critical work on the ground that is creating prosperity and security for the long road ahead.
We’ve been busy making sure that information and discussions about Venezuelan refugees and ways to support them are adapted to our increasingly virtual world. Here are just some of the things we are up to. Click to learn more and reach out to Hilda Vega, Deputy Director, Programs, at [email protected] to get involved.
- VMF FUND: We launched a sub-fund of our Rapid Response COVID-19 Migration Fund specifically to support Venezuelan refugee-serving organizations as they build back from the impacts of the pandemic. Read more and access the application form here.
- VIRTUAL SUMMIT PRECONFERENCE EVENT: We hosted a virtual discussion on the power of storytelling in understanding the complexities of the worker justice movement and Venezuelan migration. Featuring Carlos P. Beltran, Journalist, Producer and Director; Patricia Velasquez, Actress and Founder of The Wayuu Taya Foundation, Lala Lovera, Director of Fundación Comparte Por Una Vida, Colombia, and Ana Avendaño, President, Minga Strategie; you can watch the conversation here.
- IN CONVERSATION: We are developing a series of webinars, roundtables, and other discussions to exchange best practices, work together creatively, and keep building the movement in support of Venezuelan refugees. Please sign up here to get updates.
- RESOURCES: Learn about just some of the work amplifying the voices of Venezuelan and other refugees by checking out Resourcing Refugee Leadership, the R4V Coordination Platform for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants and news sources such as The New Humanitarian’s migration coverage.
Take action today! Donate to our VMF Fund and start supporting frontline organizations working with refugees across the region to build thriving futures. Please contact [email protected] for more details.