June 25, 2020. Bogota, Colombia: Kendry Castro (23) is receiving the cash aid in the form of a card given to her by a worker from the NRC team after checking her documents. She has two children of one and three years. She came to Bogotá with them from Merida 6 months after her husband when he sent her the money for the trip and she finished her fifth grade of school. She had the dream of studying medicine but she had to leave it and go to her husband. In Merida, her husband had a motorcycle workshop. In Bogotá, he found a job in a fruit shop in the market place. But with the virus, he lost his job and now, he's out on the street looking for trash to sell for recycling. At this time, because the school is close, Kendry stays with her two children, she can’t work. Apart from the market given by the kindergarten, this is the first time they receive help, in 3 years of being in the country. "The other day at one point, I started crying, because I wanted to leave. I called my mother in Venezuela, I wanted to go, I did not want to be here. And she answered: "No! don't come! Look at the problems! Think of the children!" . 
If she has to say something to the world about her life as a refugee: "It's hard. It's both sad and humiliating. Since I've been in Bogota, there are people who insult you. For being Venezuelan, they insult you. (...) There are many of us who wouldn't want this to happen to us. Because it's hard to come from a place where you are loved and cherished, to a place where you are humiliated, discriminated against, looked down on."
Her two children were born in Colombia, they are nationalized. And her husband is also Colombian: his parents were displaced by the internal war in Colombia and found refuge in Venezuela. Today, her grandmother has to return to Colombia. Kendry says, "My children's grandmother is Colombian. And she cries, and she says she wants to go to Venezuela, where she has her car, her house, her farm. Here, no. Here, she doesn't have it now."  Credit: Nadège Mazars for NRC
Colombia

Voices from a neglected crisis

“My message to the world: it is sad, it is hard, and it is humiliating.”

This is the voice of Kendry Castro, a 23-year-old Venezuelan living in Colombia. She is among more than five million refugees and migrants that have left Venezuela for other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years.

The Covid-19 pandemic is now forcing tens of thousands of people like Kendry to live in deep poverty or depend on humanitarian aid, as lockdown measures prevent them from earning a living.

June 25, 2020. Bogota, Colombia: Venezuelan migrants wait in line before participating in a wokshop on covid organized by the NGO NRC, before receiving financial assistance spread over 6 months, to cope with the reduction of their income due to confinement. Credit: Nadège Mazars for NRC
Read caption Venezuelans wait in line to take part in a workshop on Covid-19 organised by NRC. They will receive financial assistance spread over six months, to cope with the reduction of their income due to lockdown. Photo: Nadège Mazars/NRC

Photographer NADÈGE MAZAR met with some of these Venezuelans as they were receiving a cash grant from NRC in the Colombian capital of Bogota.

Kendry Castro, 23, has two children, aged one and three, and originally comes from Merida in north-west Venezuela.

First her husband left to search for a living in the Colombian capital Bogota. Six months later he sent her money so she could join him, and she came to Bogota together with her two children. She had just finished school, and her dream was to study medicine.

In Merida, her husband had a motorcycle workshop. In Bogota, he found a job working in a fruit shop at the market.

But with the virus, he lost his job. And now, he's out on the street looking for trash to sell for recycling.

Due to the pandemic the schools are closed, and Kendry stays home with her two children.

June 25, 2020. Bogota, Colombia: Kendry Castro (23) is receiving the cash aid in the form of a card given to her by a worker from the NRC team after checking her documents. She has two children of one and three years. She came to Bogotá with them from Merida 6 months after her husband when he sent her the money for the trip and she finished her fifth grade of school. She had the dream of studying medicine but she had to leave it and go to her husband. In Merida, her husband had a motorcycle workshop. In Bogotá, he found a job in a fruit shop in the market place. But with the virus, he lost his job and now, he's out on the street looking for trash to sell for recycling. At this time, because the school is close, Kendry stays with her two children, she can’t work. Apart from the market given by the kindergarten, this is the first time they receive help, in 3 years of being in the country. "The other day at one point, I started crying, because I wanted to leave. I called my mother in Venezuela, I wanted to go, I did not want to be here. And she answered: "No! don't come! Look at the problems! Think of the children!" . 
If she has to say something to the world about her life as a refugee: "It's hard. It's both sad and humiliating. Since I've been in Bogota, there are people who insult you. For being Venezuelan, they insult you. (...) There are many of us who wouldn't want this to happen to us. Because it's hard to come from a place where you are loved and cherished, to a place where you are humiliated, discriminated against, looked down on."
Her two children were born in Colombia, they are nationalized. And her husband is also Colombian: his parents were displaced by the internal war in Colombia and found refuge in Venezuela. Today, her grandmother has to return to Colombia. Kendry says, "My children's grandmother is Colombian. And she cries, and she says she wants to go to Venezuela, where she has her car, her house, her farm. Here, no. Here, she doesn't have it now."  Credit: Nadège Mazars for NRC
Read caption NRC is giving financial support to Venezuelan refugees and migrants. It is the first time Kendry has received any help in three years. Photo: Nadège Mazars/NRC

Supporting vulnerable families

In the face of such adverse conditions, some Venezuelans have decided to return home as their livelihoods have dried up abroad. As of 30 June 2020, more than 80,000 had returned from different parts of Latin America. Some of them walking long distances by foot.

“We are doing what we can to support and protect Venezuelan refugees and migrants. In Colombia we are providing cash to vulnerable families and to host communities,” says Dominika Arseniuk, Country Director with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Colombia.

June 25, 2020. Bogota, Colombia: Venezuelan migrants participate in a wokshop on covid organized by the NGO NRC, before receiving financial assistance spread over 6 months, to cope with the reduction of their income due to confinement. Credit: Nadège Mazars for NRC 

----- info on the workshop from NRC Colombia----
In the workshop we shared tips to prevent family and social violence scenarios. As a consequence of the pandemic and the isolation measures, we taught how to manage emotions and solve conflicts. Learning to breathe and listen actively are key in this context, especially when people have been displaced, are far from their homes and may be discriminated because of their nationality. In the workshop we also provide information so that the population can make good use of the cash transfers provided.
Read caption A group of Venezuelans participates in a workshop on Covid-19 organised by NRC. They will receive financial assistance spread over six months, to cope with the reduction of their income due to lockdown. Photo: Nadège Mazars/NRC

NRC is giving financial support to Venezuelan refugees and migrants over a period of six months. We are also providing workshops to help them cope with the trauma and stress that many of them are experiencing.

June 25, 2020. Bogota, Colombia: Kendry Castro (23) is receiving the cash aid in the form of a card given to her by a worker from the NRC team after checking her documents. She has two children of one and three years. She came to Bogotá with them from Merida 6 months after her husband when he sent her the money for the trip and she finished her fifth grade of school. She had the dream of studying medicine but she had to leave it and go to her husband. In Merida, her husband had a motorcycle workshop. In Bogotá, he found a job in a fruit shop in the market place. But with the virus, he lost his job and now, he's out on the street looking for trash to sell for recycling. At this time, because the school is close, Kendry stays with her two children, she can’t work. Apart from the market given by the kindergarten, this is the first time they receive help, in 3 years of being in the country. "The other day at one point, I started crying, because I wanted to leave. I called my mother in Venezuela, I wanted to go, I did not want to be here. And she answered: "No! don't come! Look at the problems! Think of the children!" . 
If she has to say something to the world about her life as a refugee: "It's hard. It's both sad and humiliating. Since I've been in Bogota, there are people who insult you. For being Venezuelan, they insult you. (...) There are many of us who wouldn't want this to happen to us. Because it's hard to come from a place where you are loved and cherished, to a place where you are humiliated, discriminated against, looked down on."
Her two children were born in Colombia, they are nationalized. And her husband is also Colombian: his parents were displaced by the internal war in Colombia and found refuge in Venezuela. Today, her grandmother has to return to Colombia. Kendry says, "My children's grandmother is Colombian. And she cries, and she says she wants to go to Venezuela, where she has her car, her house, her farm. Here, no. Here, she doesn't have it now."  Credit: Nadège Mazars for NRC
Read caption “It is hard to come from a place where you are loved and cherished, to a place where you are humiliated, discriminated against and looked down upon,” says Kendry. Photo: Nadège Mazars/NRC

Humiliated and discriminated against

Kendry can’t work, and this is the first time she has received any help in three years. The other day she started crying because she wanted to leave. She called her mother in Venezuela and told her she wanted to go back, but her mother answered: “No! Don't come. Look at the problems. Think of the children.”

When asked what she would say to the world about her life as a refugee, Kendry answers:

“It is hard. It is both sad and humiliating. Since I have been in Bogota, there are people who insult you. They insult you for just being Venezuelan. It is hard to come from a place where you are loved and cherished, to a place where you are humiliated, discriminated against and looked down upon.”

Arseniuk explains: “The biggest factor that makes Venezuelan refugees particularly vulnerable is that they often do not have regular legal status in their host countries. This means they have limited access to formal employment, reliable shelter, or public health services.”

June 25, 2020. Bogota, Colombia: Angie Carolina Burgosa (33) has been in Colombia for four years. She has 10 children. In Venezuela the situation became hard for her family. Food shortages began to affect her children to the point that they had a faded fight. "They were dehydrated," she says. "When I saw my children like that, we went to a farm... to steal some cattle... and in this theft I was almost killed. I mean, it was a terrible thing because I did it for my kids." That's what precipitated his departure from the country. She walked away with six of his children. She thought she would find help from the father of his children, a Colombian who had been displaced for a long time in Venezuela, and returned to Colombia. "He told me that he was going to help me with the children but... he turned his back on me later. 
She stayed on the street for a while. And social services took their kids away from her. Now she is living in a slum called "Paraiso", Heaven, with four of her daughters, elderly of 10 months, 3 years, 4 years and her 16 year old daughter who is also mother of a 2 years old, and made Angie a 33 year old grandmother. They live in one room and there is no water. "I have pots full of water.it must have done something to me because I got bone pain, I got the flu. It made me very sick. Then I said, "My God, I have me the Covid! (...) I took a pill, and my daughter made me lemon water with sugar can. And that made me better. I was able to get out of bed. Because I couldn't get out of bed."
In Venezuela, she had this plan to have her own restaurant. "At night I would sell coffee on the road. And by day, working in a restaurant." In Colombia, she worked a time in a fruit shop. "The lady treated me badly and paid me 20,000 pesos (5 dollars) per day, and she told me that this was only what Venezuelans were paid... She always humiliated me. "
"I decided not to work for anyone, because I worked in a family home and I was treated badly too. So I decided to sell garbage bags to the traffic lights.(...) During the quarantine, one week it arrived that because we were locked up in the house, the girl did not have a teapot. So I said: What do I do?!! Let's go out! And we decided to go out and I met a man and he gave us a food package." 
"A little while ago, about 15 days ago, there, where I live in Paraiso, there is a big school and they were going to give out food packages. I went. Because maybe I'm not Colombian but I'm human. I'm Venezuelan but I'm human. I respect everyone. So I went. Come on, Angie! And then, I was there. A man came and said. No, you are Venezuelan. Bastard! Gonorrhea [Colombian insult]! I asked: Why you treat me like this if I'm not messing with you! He was an old man but I think he was drunk. And 15 people came... to try to stab! A guy grabbed my hand and we started running! Finally the police arrived and they didn't manage to stab us. So now, if they're going to give something, I don't go near them because I'm Venezuelan and they can attack me!"
A similar story happened to her a few days before, with two of his daughters playing in a park. She was stabbed a few times, and a shiner in her left eye, which can be seen in the photos. "Like everything else, they always say "Venecos", they call us "Gonorrhea". Then already, stabbed, bleeding and beaten... my daughters crying (...) I grabbed my daughters and left. (...) My daughters decided now to stay in the house, locked up; for on Sunday, they did not want to leave." Credit: Nadège Mazars for NRC
Read caption Angie Carolina Burgosa, 33, has been in Colombia for four years. Now she is living in a slum called “Paraiso” (Paradise), with four of her daughters. Photo: Nadège Mazars/NRC

Living in the slum

Angie Carolina Burgosa, 33, has been in Colombia for four years. She has ten children.

In Venezuela, the situation had become hard for her family. Food shortages began to affect her children to the point that they lost weight, and they were dehydrated. 

Angie stayed on the street for a while. But the social services took two of her kids away from her. Now she is living in a slum called “Paraiso” (“Heaven”), with four of her daughters. Her oldest daughter is 16 and already mother of a two-year-old child.  

June 25, 2020. Bogota, Colombia: Lisbeth Chiquinquira (53) is originally from Maracaibo. She has 7 children, of which only one is still in Venezuela. There, she has a little house. But in the five years she's been gone, the house has been abandoned. At first, she lived in Becceril, near the Colombian Caribbean coast with her sons and daughters. They were paid to keep a house; but when it was sold, Lisbeth came to Bogotá, a year and 7 months ago, with a daughter and two of her grandchildren, aged 12 and 9. "Here I am working selling coffee on the street. Thank God, I did very well last year but with this cvid-19 issue, I haven't been able to work. I go out with my thermos, but the covid with the coffees... it doesn't happen! People don't buy out of fear. Before in Venezuela, I worked in a family home, I was an employee." (...) “This year, yes, it has made me quite difficult. I don't have to give up my son who is in Venezuela, who has two children. Yesterday he called me and said: Mommy, I want to leave. But no! The situation is very difficult. Just to bring him to Maicao [on the Colombian side, near the northern border with Venezuela], they are charging 100 dollars. And from Maicao to Bogota... other money... And since they're not letting anyone through, I have him there, in great need." When asked what her hopes are, Lisbeth replies: "That my country will return to what it was and we will return! Yes, I am very grateful to many Colombians, but yes, I would like to return to my country. There is my family. There is my little house. I have a sister, I have nephews and nieces. I have faith in God that one day it has to happen. Each one of us must return to our own homes, to our own country. To live our life, as we lived it peacefully. Happy. We were very happy." Credit: Nadège Mazars for NRC
Read caption Lisbeth Chiquinquira, 53. Photo: Nadège Mazars/NRC

Selling coffee on the street

Lisbeth Chiquinquira, 53, is a mother of seven and is originally from Maracaibo in Venezuela.

"Here I am working selling coffee on the street. Thank God, I did very well last year, but after the pandemic I have not been able to work. I go out with my thermos, but people are afraid of the virus and do not buy anything,” she says.

June 25, 2020. Bogota, Colombia: Lisbeth Chiquinquira (53) is receiving the cash aid in the form of a card given to her by a worker from the NRC team after checking her documents. She is originally from Maracaibo. She has 7 children, of which only one is still in Venezuela. There, she has a little house. But in the five years she's been gone, the house has been abandoned. At first, she lived in Becceril, near the Colombian Caribbean coast with her sons and daughters. They were paid to keep a house; but when it was sold, Lisbeth came to Bogotá, a year and 7 months ago, with a daughter and two of her grandchildren, aged 12 and 9. "Here I am working selling coffee on the street. Thank God, I did very well last year but with this cvid-19 issue, I haven't been able to work. I go out with my thermos, but the covid with the coffees... it doesn't happen! People don't buy out of fear. Before in Venezuela, I worked in a family home, I was an employee." (...) “This year, yes, it has made me quite difficult. I don't have to give up my son who is in Venezuela, who has two children. Yesterday he called me and said: Mommy, I want to leave. But no! The situation is very difficult. Just to bring him to Maicao [on the Colombian side, near the northern border with Venezuela], they are charging 100 dollars. And from Maicao to Bogota... other money... And since they're not letting anyone through, I have him there, in great need." When asked what her hopes are, Lisbeth replies: "That my country will return to what it was and we will return! Yes, I am very grateful to many Colombians, but yes, I would like to return to my country. There is my family. There is my little house. I have a sister, I have nephews and nieces. I have faith in God that one day it has to happen. Each one of us must return to our own homes, to our own country. To live our life, as we lived it peacefully. Happy. We were very happy." Credit: Nadège Mazars for NRC
Read caption Lisbeth Chiquinquira, 53, is receiving a cash grant in the form of a card given to her by an NRC staff member. Photo: Nadège Mazars/NRC

One of her sons stayed behind in Venezuela, where the family has a small house.  

“I keep telling him that he should not come here. Yesterday he called me and said: ‘Mommy, I want to leave’. But no. The situation is very difficult. Just to get him over the border they are charging USD 100. And right now he might not be able to cross the border at all.”

June 25, 2020. Bogota, Colombia: When asked what has changed with the covid for him, Javier David Mendez Salcedo (28) answers, with a look of panic that he keeps during the interview: "Everything has changed! I'm practically in a street situation. I'm not really selling anything." He's living in downtown Bogota with his wife and two kids. He rents a small room, with a shared bathroom and kitchen, which they must pay for every day. He brings in 14,000 pesos every afternoon, a little under 4 dollars. And every day it is very difficult to get it. They threatened him several times with eviction. "It's my turn to bring what comes out now. Well, once I'm done here, I'll go to work." He's selling candy on the buses.
In Venezuela, he was a network technician, in charge of alarms, security cameras, everything related to automation. But the job went away. And he left too with his family, "trying to find a future there. (...) I have children and really, the important thing, was that, a main motivation" to go to Peru. And then return to Colombia. "Of course, I've lost a lot of hope because it's really difficult. Before the covid, at least March, December, January, February, I was not happy but I had to pay for a room, at least to have a plate of food for my children every day.  At this moment, the truth, well... if I have breakfast, not lunch. Lunch, no breakfast. And so, really, it's difficult."
And how to protect yourself against Covid? "Right now, it's normal soap. Because I don't have money to buy it. Tapaboca, yes, but the essential"
"To be displaced, the worst thing is xenophobia. A Venezuelan is a thief to everyone. Difficult this part." 6 days ago, "a policeman asked me for a requisition for the mass transport (Transmilenio). He beat me up because he wanted to take my goods.  As it's a biological risk, it's forbidden to sell. The truth... it was my turn... to defend myself. And he hit me and took me to the police station. I stayed there for 72 hours... and the children were starving."
By being displaced, "I also discovered that... the truth... that everything in life is not money. Material things. That there are things that are more important. Like family. Which is more important than money. It can be more valuable to be a partner with someone else." Credit: Nadège Mazars for NRC
Read caption Javier David Mendez Salcedo, 28, tries to make a living selling candy on the busses. Photo: Nadège Mazars/NRC

Selling candy on busses

"After the pandemic everything has changed. I am not really selling anything,” says Javier David Mendez Salcedo, 28, who tries to make a living selling candy on the busses.

He is living downtown Bogota with his wife and two kids. He rents a small room, with a shared bathroom and kitchen, which they must pay for every day. He brings in 14,000 pesos every afternoon, a little under USD 4.

Back home in Venezuela, Javier was a technician working with alarms and security cameras.

Since the virus hit, I do not even have money for soap to wash our hands, and If I am lucky, I am able to give my children one meal a day.
Javier David Mendez Salcedo, 28

“When I lost my job, we came here searching for a living and a better future. In the beginning we managed to pay rent and food. Since the virus hit, I do not even have money for soap to wash our hands, and If I am lucky, I am able to give my children one meal a day.”

Javier says that the worst thing is the xenophobia. “Here a Venezuelan is a thief to everyone. Six days ago, I was arrested … and held in captivity for 72 hours. The children were starving.”

Read more about Venezuela and neglected crises