Starting over in the midst of difficulty
After being forced to leave the country they love, Luis*, at age 11, along with his two younger sisters Isabela* and Camila*, ages 8 and 4 respectively, his mother Valeria* and his grandmother Ana*, age 57, arrived in Peru. Their father Ruben came four months ahead to look for work and waited impatiently for them.
Now the whole family must live in one single room in Lima full of noise and dust.
“The journey was difficult because I came with the children and my mother. I had to carry Camila because she was very young, we also carried food and all our things. The trip lasted seven days. Our feet were swollen, we couldn’t take a shower, some of the food got spoiled.”
The deepening of the political and economic crisis, the increase of crime and the shortage of food and medicine have turned Venezuela into one of the most dangerous countries in the world for a child. Unfortunately, life in Peru for Luis and his family is equally difficult.
The new reality hits
Ruben works as a bus driver, Valeria prepares food to sell, and Grandma Ana cleans houses. However, these are informal jobs that do not allow them a good level of income. They can barely survive.
Both Luis and his sisters have returned to school. They found no vacancies in a public school and Valeria did not want her children to miss the school year, so she enrolled them in a private school. However, she often falls behind on her monthly payments. It is a daily struggle for parents to maintain a positive attitude and provide them with what they need. “The children see me crying sometimes,” explains their exhausted mother. “One day they told me, ‘don’t cry, just get us out of school so you don’t have to pay for it. I don’t want them to say that.”
The room they share opens onto the rooftop of the building where Luis plays soccer, Camila plays with the neighbors’ dog, and Isabela turns to her dance routines: I learn dance routines to show them to my mom as a kind of gift.”
Grateful for the help
Save the Children is helping the family through a cash transfer program so that they can afford the basics such as food, repayment of a loan and purchase of some toys for the children. The first transfer was used to buy the bunk beds where the children now sleep, before they all shared a mattress.
Research shows that providing money to families is often the most efficient and effective way to help them. Families know what they really need, and cash transfers give them the freedom and flexibility to pay for it.
“With the cash transfer I was able to pay off my loan, buy some food, buy some toys for the kids: a kitchen set and a medical kit, so the kids could have fun too! “
The children have also been able to attend sessions at the CFS (Child Friendly Spaces), a space that provides practical, psychosocial and nutritional support, while helping to protect the children of migrant families.
In the case of this particular family, each of the children has reacted differently to what they have experienced. Luis dedicates a good part of his time to making plasticine figures. It is his way of handling anxiety in the face of overcrowding and confinement. Isabela is very sensitive and introverted, and sometimes she finds it difficult to make friends because she lacks confidence. On the other hand, Camila shows a strong character for her young age. She has moments when she is very loving and others when she is closed in on herself.
Despite of the situation, the family does not stop dreaming and having hope for the future. Luis, for example, wants to go to the school prom and his parents are looking forward to returning to Venezuela and regaining the life they once enjoyed. Valeria, the mother, comments: “I want to go back to Venezuela, I just want things to get better. Hope and faith are the last things you lose. “
*Names were changed as required by the protection policy.
About the intervention:
The project “Immediate Assistance to Venezuelan Families in Emergency and at Risk” has been implemented by Save the Children with support from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Food For Peace (FFP) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This intervention aims to provide emergency humanitarian aid to Venezuelan migrants in a situation of risk and vulnerability during their stay and transit through Peru. It prioritizes pregnant and lactating women, people with disabilities and/or chronic diseases, families with children under 18 years of age, and older adults.
The areas of the intervention are: child protection, nutrition and health, cash transfer program, as well as humanitarian coordination, information management and communication.