My name is Leonardo, and for more than 20 years I’ve been helping children who live on the streets here in Venezuela.
Hungry and alone, thousands of children struggle to get by among the clamour of Caracas, Venezuela’s capital. For too long their suffering went unnoticed, as if the children themselves were invisible. I decided something had to change.
I work with the Asociación Civil Jóvenes y Desarrollo, a national NGO that provides aid for society’s most vulnerable demographic. We offer food assistance, water and sanitation facilities, and psychosocial support via 7 centres throughout Venezuela.
Economic hardship and political upheaval have forced millions of Venezuelans to flee their homes, an exodus that began in earnest in 2018. Since then, we have expanded our scope of work to assist not only children, but adolescent mothers and vulnerable families too.
One family endured a tragic ordeal, fleeing Venezuela only to be attacked by gangs. Traumatised, and having lost her son in the violence, the mother returned to the country with her two young daughters. We offered them hot food, counselling, and a safe space at one of our centres. Psychological scars take time to heal, but finding ways to support this family makes me proud of the work we do.
Always looking for new ways to help those in need, I signed up for training with RedR UK.
The course I took, Shelter in Urban Emergencies, broadened my understanding of how best to help vulnerable children and families. We now take a more holistic approach to providing shelter; whether it’s simply providing household items or cash to pay for rent, the aid we give ensures they have a safe place and basic amenities to live.
I learnt that boys and girls have different needs when it comes to safe spaces, since the latter face unique threats from gender-based violence. In 2018, 6 out of 10 children on the streets of Caracas were girls. RedR UK’s training has put me in a better position to meet their needs.
Through the training I was able to meet aid workers from all across South America, all working towards the common goal of supporting Venezuelans in need. We are of one purpose, and it was truly remarkable to witness the scope of the humanitarian response here.
That said, life in the aid sector isn’t easy. I work 15-hour days. As a national NGO, we don’t have the luxury of leaving the country for some much-needed rest. Venezuela is my home, and so long as there are children on the street, I will always have a job to do. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our doors remained open to those in need. It was difficult, but stopping our services was never an option.
I’m proud to say that since last year we’ve supported 28,000 people, 60% of whom are children and adolescents from as young as four months to 18 years old. My work is demanding, but helping families and children rebuild their lives makes it all worth it.
I urge you to give generously to RedR UK this summer, so they can train more aid workers like me. With the skills and knowledge they provide, we can approach humanitarian crises with confidence; confidence in our ability to help, confident in the knowledge that people like you, nearly 5,000 miles away, are willing to support our work.
All over the world, at this very moment, aid workers are responding to every type of crisis imaginable. Humanitarians have a passion to help, but we cannot do it alone.
Please donate today, so that RedR UK can help us become the best humanitarians we can be. Your donation today will help train the aid workers of tomorrow.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story,
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