Imagine walking from Vancouver to Fort McMurray. Now imagine doing that with two families with children under the age of 7.
Finally, imagine the majority of the route was full of guerilla terrorists who robbed, mugged, fought, and killed people passing through if they were thought to be in the government.
Luz Helena and her family made that journey, walking almost 1,500km from Caracas, Venezuela to Baranquilla, Colombia under these conditions. The journey took weeks with no end to their struggle upon arrival.
“We did not want to leave, it was our home,” Luz continued softly, “but we had to. Now my grandchildren will remember our country in an ugly way and that breaks my heart.”
It has been two years since the family was forced to leave Venezuela due to the economic collapse and violent protests the country was facing. As we walked into the refugee settlement there was an immediate stench that rose from the toxic chemical factory the shelters were built upon. The old factory had become a squatter camp, and Luz’s family lived inside. Her son-in-law explained that the toxic fumes can be ignored for the time being because this shelter is theirs.
The one physical claim Luz’s family had left in the world was an extremely unstable 2-floor shelter built inside an old toxic chemical factory. While we were visiting Luz the pastor of the local church came in and was instantly embraced by the family. “This was my first Colombian friend.” beamed Luz proudly towards the pastor. The pastor went on to explain how the church is the only service agency actively supporting refugees in this area. Luz’s family was invited to participate in the church’s feeding program, and have been connected ever since.
“I still miss my country. Life here in Colombia is hard, but I have my family, and now my church who give me hope.” Luz smiled warmly and said: