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Andrea holds her toddler daughter outside their temporary home in Cucuta, Colombia
Leaving everything behind

Andrea's story

Since 2014, violence, economic collapse and crippling shortages of food, medicine and basic services have made life a daily struggle for millions of Venezuelans. Skyrocketing inflation rates have left working families unable to put dinner on the table.

Women and children walk across the bridge between Venezuela and the city of Cucuta, Colombia.
More than 1 million Venezuelans have crossed the Colombia border seeking refuge. Photo: Andres Brenner/IRC

Andrea, 29-year-old mother of two, is one of more than three million Venezuelans who have been driven from their homes by crisis. Facing hunger and no hope for the future, Andrea and her husband felt leaving Venezuela was their only option.

“Life inside Venezuela is very difficult. There is much hunger, much insecurity … you cannot find medicines, you can hardly get food, and if you can find food, it’s at a very high price. We have two little girls and it is for their future that we decided to come here to Colombia.”

After selling most of their possessions for very little return, they headed out with their daughters, ages seven and one, across the border to Colombia.

“We traveled for 15 hours on a bus. My youngest child got sick on the way. She spent the whole journey with fever and vomiting. We already had little money, so on the way we ate almost nothing. It was the worst trip of my life.”

There were days we went to bed with nothing in our stomachs.

When the family finally arrived in Cúcuta, Colombia, they joined more than one million other Venezuelans who have sought refuge there. But the transition was far from easy.

“When we arrived [in Colombia] we had to start again from zero. In Venezuela we at least had a home with a kitchen and gas for cooking. Here we had nothing at all. There were days we went to bed with nothing in our stomachs.” 

A smiling Andrea holds her sleepy younger daughter at the IRC care center in Cúcuta.

Andrea and her younger daughter at the IRC care center in Cúcuta, Colombia. "It has not been easy, but at least we have food to put on the table," Andrea says. "There is so much hunger in Venezuela."

Photo: Andres Brenner/IRC

One day some IRC staff came to her door to invite Andrea to participate in parenting workshops. Soon thereafter, they offered the struggling young family emergency cash support. Andrea’s husband, a technician back in Venezuela, used it to buy a computer and some tools so that he could start a cell phone repair business. They also used some of the money to buy food and a refrigerator. It has truly been a lifeline.

The IRC and the people on their team are wonderful. I really hope that they can help many Venezuelans like me.

“It is difficult to describe with words how I felt the moment the IRC gave us help…I just cried and cried. The IRC and the people on their team are wonderful. I really hope that they can help many Venezuelans like me.”

The IRC has been working in Cúcuta, Colombia since April 2018, supporting Venezuelans and vulnerable Colombians with emergency cash, health care and specialized services for women and children.

The International Rescue Committee has earned the highest marks from Charity Watch and Charity Navigator, and meets all 20 of BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s accountability standards.