Approximately five million people have fled Venezuela due to political and economic turmoil—the largest regional displacement in the history of the Western Hemisphere. Many of the country’s citizens lack access to basic necessities such as food, clean water, and medicine.
The humanitarian crisis has prompted innovative problem solvers—global and local entrepreneurs, academics, civil society organizations, businesses, and others—to develop transformative approaches to improve lives in Venezuela and support regional diaspora communities struggling with integration.
The BetterTogether/JuntosEsMejor Challenge crowdsources, funds, and scales innovative solutions to benefit Venezuelans and their host communities across Latin America and the Caribbean. The Challenge funded, for example, "Loop,” a new mobile application created by the Peruvian employment agency Nanas & Amas. Loop connects Venezuelan migrant women living in vulnerable conditions in Lima to vetted employment opportunities that ensure fair pay, security, and the opportunity to decide their own terms of employment. Nanas & Amas and Loop also connect women to targeted employment training and provide strategies on starting to save or building a credit history, further empowering women to pursue other educational and professional opportunities. Nanas & Amas will leverage the Challenge funding to scale Loop and reach more than 1,000 Venezuelan women living and working in Lima, with the prospect to expand the model to other cities in Peru.
Meanwhile, in Colombia, two artists came together to start Voices for Venezuela, a media project that combats xenophobia and creates economic opportunities for immigrants and refugees. The project educates Venezuelan migrants about accessing critical services in Colombia and hosts dynamic content and public dialogue to prevent conflict and promote peaceful integration. Its programs use pop culture to hold humorous cultural discussions between Colombians and Venezuelans to deter xenophobia while discussing shared history, culture, and gastronomy.
Colombia hosts nearly two million displaced Venezuelans, including company founder Nery Santaella, who moved there three years ago.
Nery Santaella from Art for Impact in the "Laboratorio de Arepas" (Arepas Lab), a Sci-fi themed cooking show using pop culture to hold humorous cultural discussions between Colombians and Venezuelans to deter xenophobia, while discussing shared history, culture, and gastronomy.
“In a group of people that don’t know you are Venezuelan, there’s a subtle xenophobia of ‘everything is worse since Venezuelans are here,’” said Santaella. “We’re teaching that you shouldn’t get mad about it; instead, be in a place of empathy and be open to dialogue. If you close up and get offended right away, we’re not going to solve this.”
These two organizations and 17 others have received more than $5.45 million in awards to scale their solutions through the BetterTogether/JuntosEsMejor Challenge. The Challenge is a partnership of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and is implemented by Resonance through the USAID Catalyst project.
“The Resonance USAID Catalyst project team is excited to support these innovators in growing and expanding their impact across the region in support of Venezuelan migrants and the communities hosting them,” said Catalyst’s Chief of Party, Stephen Rahaim. “We look forward to sharing more great stories from these and other innovators across the portfolio in the coming months.”
Read more about all 19 winners and their innovative approaches on the JuntosEsMejor Challenge website.
Photo by Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash