By Melissa Monzon
Luis was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Two years ago, he decided to leave his country, seeking for a better quality of life. He started his trip by bus, because he didn’t have all the documents to travel by plane. “When I arrived in Cucuta, I found the Red Cross, they gave me a kit with help for the road, because the trip was very long; I was traveling to Medellin”. Once in Medellin, he worked there for eight months, and then started his way to Lima, Peru. The road was not what he expected, once in Ecuador he encountered a series of protests and when he couldn´t continue with his trip, he had to stay two days in the station waiting to be able to take the bus to continue his journey. “When I arrived in Guayaquil, I once again found a Red Cross tent, they help us all, they gave us a food kit, things for personal care and medicine”, says Luis. Then he continued his route until he arrived in Lima.
Once in Lima, a friend offered him a job selling food. “I worked hard every day, we had several problems, but we persisted, working in an exhausting schedule”. However, due to the pandemic, he could no longer continue working. “As I worked on the streets, with COVID-19 we couldn´t work anymore. It hit us pretty hard, because that was our only income”.
Luis has a bicycle, and now that Peru is opening up some economic activities, he is already looking for a job, offering his home delivery service. “As I am a migrant, I don´t have a subsidy from the government. For this reason, every day, I go to the markets, looking constantly for a job, I hope to find it soon”, says Luis.
A year and seven months ago Yudi came from Venezuela to Peru with her family, seeking a better quality of life. In order to be able to make the trip, they sold everything they had. Peru was their destination since the beginning, as they heard that they were handing out the temporary residence permit, with which they could work and earn a living legally and honestly, as she tells us.
“My daughter has epilepsy, this also made us take the decision to migrate. We needed to go to a place, to a country where they could offer her medical care and get the medicines that she so badly needs.”
Before Yudi traveled, her brother and nephews had already arrived. After they proved that they felt Good here, Yudi traveled with her sister, her two sons and her two dogs, who are also part of the family.
Once in Lima, Yudi worked as a tutor for online courses until November 2019. Due to the pandemic, her sister and son were also unemployed; her nephews, who had a food business, had to close it. “The situation is quite uncertain, we don´t know what will happen”, says Yudi.
Jesus came from Venezuela to Peru four years ago. His trip was by bus, because he didn´t had enough money to travel by plane. He first arrived in Ecuador, where he stayed for two months, and then arrived in Peru in 2016. “When I arrived, everything seemed nice to me, although I didn´t knew many things, I felt out of place, I was only twenty years old. I lived in one room and shared a bathroom with sixteen people. I worked as a waiter in a restaurant; until today I am very grateful to those people because I didn’t have the documents at that time, and they always treated me well”, says Jesus, who already knows the city today, has Peruvian friends and colleagues, and tell us that thanks to them he has been able to learn more about the country’s culture.
Eventually he moved to an apartment and went from waiter to manager of a restaurant. “I met very nice, spectacular people, they gave me a lot of support, I learned a lot of things, because when I left Venezuela, I was a student, I didn’t have work experience.”
Due to the pandemic, Jesus no longer has a job because the restaurant where he used to work decided to close. “I lost my job; it was alarming because I lived alone. I was worried, but happily I had contact with some friends who decided to move in with me.”
Jesus tells us that another great concern of not earning an income is not being able to send money back to his mom and dad who live in Venezuela. He, like so many other migrants, is a source of income for all those families who stayed in their countries.
“I try to see the positive things in everything. When the quarantine begun, I tried to organize myself a little more, I sold some stuff, and I tried different things to distract myself, I tried to do exercise a lot, pray a lot, watch the news and communicate with my family in Venezuela.”
Pedro left from Venezuela to Colombia a year and a half ago searching for work, while his wife Maria, traveled to Peru. After two months, they met each other in the latter country. Once in Peru, Pedro worked in a restaurant. “It was very difficult because I have never worked in a kitchen before, but I did my best, my wife was pregnant at the time. I always tried to do my best, until I was stabled at my job. I worked hard, obtaining each of the things that I have today in my home, and helping my family in Venezuela, where I have two children. Fighting every day for the welfare of my family”, says Pedro.
In the context of the pandemic, Pedro lost his job. In one of his wife’s pregnancy test, they test him for HIV, the result tested positive. “I have been very pleased with the treatment they have given me; I have received excellent attention and information. I am very grateful with the hospital, with its staff, with the help here in Peru, they have helped us a lot. They have given me pills, information, everything I needed”.
Despite his degree of vulnerability, Pedro has gone out to work on the streets, as he is the livelihood of his family both in Peru and in Venezuela. “I have gone out but taking all the preventive measures, with my mask and my hand sanitizer. I need to go out to work, especially for the baby who needs food”.
“I am very grateful to be in Peru, and I continue with great desire to continue working and fighting for my family, and for those we love the most, to help my children in Venezuela, and we will be here until God allows it, and then to be able to return to our country someday and to enjoy our people”, concludes Pedro.
Luis, Yudi, Jesus y Pedro are some of the people who are part of the Cash and Voucher Assistance program implemented in Peru by the Red Cross with the support of the European Union. This program is aimed at families in a vulnerable condition, who have been left without financial support due to the pandemic. As part of the program, families receive a card with an economic amount to cover their basic needs.
In the testimonies collected, the families have shared with us that the card has allowed them to cover expenses mainly for rent, food and health.
*This name was changed to protect the person who kindly gave us his testimony.
Peru: Supporting migrants in the middle of a pandemic
By Melissa Monzon