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Venezuela crisis

“I see my children happy here”: Andrea’s new life in Colombia

Andrea Rodriguez, 29, and her family moved to Colombia from Venezuela nearly two years ago, when their country’s economy collapsed, putting food and medicine out of reach.

Before the crisis, Andrea studied psychology and her husband worked as a computer and cell phone technician. The couple and their two daughters—Isabella, 8, and Orianna, 2—now live in the border town of Cúcuta, where the International Rescue Committee (IRC) provided them with emergency cash and other support to help them start over.

Andrea shares an update on how the family is adjusting to their new life:

When you come from another country, people are afraid to receive you, to open their door, to give you a glass of water. We were lucky that we have met wonderful neighbors. 

An IRC aid worker catches up with Andrea and two-year-old Orianna. Cash relief and other support from the IRC helped the family set down roots in Colombia.

Photo: Andres Brenner/IRC

We have been living on the same block for almost two years. If I had to return to Venezuela, it would hurt to leave all the friends we have made. We are a big family here in the neighborhood.

I will not say that everything has been perfect—life here has been very hard.

I will not say that everything has been perfect—life here has been very hard.

 

It is always a little difficult to get used to another culture. And it’s difficult thinking about what I was used to in Venezuela, back when we still had little luxuries, comforts... But we have learned to adapt: The bed we have is improvised with some wood but it’s our bed.

Andrea and her family in their new home in Cúcuta. They moved there from a shared house with gaps in the walls that afforded little privacy.

Photo: Andres Brenner/IRC

 

Because many Venezuelans come to Cúcuta to buy food, local merchants take advantage and have increased prices. So even Colombians are now having a hard time trying to survive.

We are still very tight for money, but our lives have greatly improved in the last few months.

We are still very tight for money, but our lives have greatly improved in the last few months.

We no longer live in a wooden house but in a house of concrete. In the old house, I did not sleep because of the fear that anyone could look inside through the holes in the wood. I feel much safer now. And we no longer have to share the house with five other people.

Andrea's husband is slowly rebuilding his livelihood of fixing cellphones after leaving a repair business behind in Venezuela.

Photo: Andres Brenner/IRC

 

My husband and I both work. Before we were selling food in the streets, now my husband is getting more work repairing cell phones and building his client network.

I have been working in a grocery store in the neighborhood. I do a little bit of everything in the store, cleaning, serving customers… I have had to learn new words for foods that have different names here in Colombia, and customers have had to adapt to my way of speaking. But when I am not there, they ask for me.

I earn less than two dollars a day—less than what we have to pay for rent—and I work from 7 in the morning to 10 at night, every day. But my boss gives lunch to the four of us every day and loans me money if I need it.

Isabella, 8, is already one of the top students in her new school in Cúcuta, and she has made both Colombian and Venezuelan friends.

Photo: Andres Brenner/IRC

Another advantage of this job is that my kids can be there with me: I'm not worried about having to leave my baby with another person to take care of her. Isabella has classes in the afternoon, and when she’s done school she goes to the store and we do homework together.

I arrive home every night super exhausted. But when you want something, you chase it. 

My wish is to give my children a good future.

My wish is to give my children a good future. That is my priority—that they grow up knowing that we are there for them, that they feel our support, and that they know that we would do anything for them. So both my husband and I are working hard so that they do not lack anything.

The family has been living on the same block for almost two years. "If I had to return to Venezuela, it would hurt to leave all the friends we have made," Andrea says.

Photo: Andres Brenner/IRC

Isabella wasn’t in school before. Now she is already one of the five best students in her class. I can see that education here is very good: She is already studying English in first grade. She loves school and has adapted well—she has both Colombian and Venezuelan friends. 

When I have moments of despair—and all I want is to go to Venezuela to see my mom, to hug my mom—I calm down because I see my children happy here, both of them.

Learn more

Well over a million Venezuelans have sought refuge in Colombia. Learn more about the IRC’s humanitarian response.