Field report
Aug 12 2017

Serving families in Venezuela amidst crisis

Field report

As government security forces clash with protestors and inflation continues to rise, tension and economic instability in Venezuela are escalating rapidly.

The 3,500 families Unbound serves in Venezuela face the daily hardships of food scarcity, transportation interruptions and power outages.

Our program in Venezuela is based in Barquisimeto, a city of more than 800,000 residents located 225 miles west of the nation’s capital, Caracas. We serve sponsored members and their families there through the efforts of 26 local staff members.

Our teams in Kansas City, Guatemala, Colombia and Bolivia are supporting the Unbound staff in Barquisimeto, as they work tirelessly to ensure sponsored members continue to receive benefits and support. The team in Venezuela has received substantial support from our staff in Guatemala.

“Helping is a characteristic of Unbound staff members,” Sergio Chajón, Unbound accountant in Guatemala, said. “To be able to support another program [in these] circumstances becomes even more necessary. Since the economic situation [in Venezuela] unfortunately affects the work, this sharing [between Unbound programs] is of mutual teaching and enriches our knowledge and our work.”

An image of Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

The view from a typical home in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

Protests in Barquisimeto and around the country are common, and severe inflation poses an ongoing struggle. Inflation rates have steadily risen in Venezuela for several years and continue to spike. This means that families get less for the money they have.

Ana Martinez, a regional project director at Unbound’s Kansas City headquarters, said inflation is so extreme that a family might have to save for four months to afford something as simple as a pair of shoes.

“Families have to be very creative in how to extend the money [Unbound sponsorship] provides,” Ana said.

Food scarcity is also an increasing problem throughout the country. According to the National Survey of Living Conditions 2016 report, nine out of 10 households in Venezuela face food scarcity, which means they don’t have the means to plan for their next meal, often resulting in eating fewer than two meals per day.

Staff members in Barquisimeto reported that experiences of families in the Unbound program are consistent with that finding, as many families struggle to know where their next meal will come from. Parents receive direct support and training from Unbound staff to help them find innovative ways to generate income for their families.

One mother of a sponsored child decided to use the money her family was able to save from sponsorship benefits to buy a large wheel of cheese, which she divides and sells in her community. The profits have helped her keep her family well fed despite the crisis.

Sponsored members in Venezuela receive their sponsorship benefits in the form of cash transfers, which we refer to as child accounts. This way, families can immediately use the funds to meet their most urgent needs, which is especially important in Venezuela since the money loses value each day.

An image of a thick stack of currency in Venezuela.

A stack of Venezuelan bolivares that amounted to only $10 USD at the time of this photo in November 2016. Today, this same amount of currency is worth only $1.25 USD.

Because of the crisis situation in the country, Unbound isn’t taking on new sponsorships there, allowing the staff to focus their efforts on the sponsored members and their families already served by the program. To best support our community in Venezuela, please help us spread awareness about this dire situation, and keep the people of Venezuela in your thoughts and prayers.

“We have a very dedicated team [in Barquisimeto] walking with the families,” Alma Arias, Unbound regional accountant, said. “More than money, we are giving hope.”

Read a letter from our program coordinator in Venezuela.

Maureen Lunn

Contributing Writer

With a master’s degree in international studies, Maureen has long been passionate about international development and loves using writing as a means to share that passion. She is a globetrotter, movie lover, Sporting KC fan, yoga teacher and self-designated crazy cat lady. Maureen and her husband, Toby, sponsor an elder in Kenya named M’Nkanatha and a young woman in Guatemala named Vivian.

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