a child stands in the doorway of a makeshift home in Colombia

Milagros Chacin: “I couldn't feed my children anymore”

Milagros Chacin and her family are among as many as 4 million refugees who have escaped the economic crisis in Venezuela by fleeing to Colombia. HI has given financial assistance to more than 200 refugee families, including Milagros Chacin’s, to help with basic necessities like buying food and paying rent.

Milagros Chacin left her job as a nurse behind when she, her husband, and their four children fled to Riohacha – a coastal Colombian town about 55 miles from the Venezuelan border – in July 2019.

“I couldn't even manage to feed my children anymore,” she said. "When we arrived in Colombia, we thought everything would be different. We hoped life would be better. We needed money, so we sold our phone, our shoes, even our children's shoes. My husband began scouring the streets for empty bottles to sell for recycling.”

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As if uprooting their lives and fleeing to a new country wasn’t difficult enough, challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have made circumstances even harder for refugee families as resources become scarcer.

“People lost their jobs and homes,” Milagros Chacin said. “The humanitarian canteen, where we used to eat, closed. We only eat once a day now. And we've already changed accommodation several times. It pushes you to the edge of despair.”

HI staff met Milagros Chacin in June and provided the family with financial assistance to help cover their basic needs and psychological support to push through such traumatic experiences. The family is living in a makeshift shelter made from plastic sheets.

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"We used it to buy food and we paid our landlord the three months’ rent we owed him," Milagros Chacin explained. "I also bought mattresses so my children don't have to sleep on the floor anymore. The phone calls really gave us hope. It's so hard, living like this.”

Despite the hardships they’ve faced, Milagros Chacin and her family are hopeful for their future.

“My dream is to be self-sufficient one day, not dependent on anyone else,” she said.We want to start our own small business so we can be free again.”