More than 1 million Venezuelan refugees have fled to Colombia. Here’s how Latter-day Saints are helping many of them

Over the past four years, more than 4 million refugees and migrants have fled Venezuela to escape civil unrest and severe shortages of food and medicine. 

More than a million of those Venezuelans have crossed their country’s western border into neighboring Colombia, according to global refugee agencies. The situation continues to tax Colombian public and private relief organizations, and relief-assistance resources are being stretched thin.

Partnering with both government and private organizations, the Church continues to offer assistance to Venezuelan migrants via humanitarian relief donations and volunteer hours from local Church congregations.

Through volunteering, Colombian Latter-day Saint Bryan Steven Gonzalez has discovered hope and light during a dark period. He’s been uplifted by the cooperative efforts of so many — regardless of their religious or national affiliation.

“We were all equal and we were all contributing to people who need it,” he told Newsroom in Colombia. “It has been a moment full of love.”

Meanwhile, the Church has worked alongside trusted allies such as the International Red Cross, the Catholic Church, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency and several local government organizations.

Full-time missionaries don "Helping Hands" vests to serve Venezuelan refugees relocated in Colombia.
Full-time missionaries don “Helping Hands” vests to serve Venezuelan refugees relocated in Colombia. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc./Colombia

Some of the Church’s partnering efforts in Colombia to assist Venezuelan refugees have focused on specific events, such as a May food and clothing donation day in Bogota’s Bosa community. In cooperation with government partners, the Church donated clothing and food to more than 1,200 Venuezuelan migrants, according to Newsroom in Colombia.

Dozens of Latter-day Saints volunteers helped prepare and distribute about 1,000 food kits to families and individuals in need; others donated clothing. Meanwhile, government health organization joined in — providing wellness exams and much-needed medicine for illnesses such as high blood pressure.

Meanwhile, mental health professionals provided counseling services, legal agencies offered pro bono advice, and the Colombian military organized recreational activities for a few hours of fun.

Angel Guacaran, a Venezuelan member living in Colombia, joined the Bosa volunteer effort.

“It was an organized activity for my countrymen. The participating organizations collaborated with all kinds of help.”

Latter-day Saint "Helping Hands" volunteers serve breakfast to Venezuelan refugees in Tunja, Colombia.
Latter-day Saint “Helping Hands” volunteers serve breakfast to Venezuelan refugees in Tunja, Colombia. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc./Colombia

Besides donating humanitarian aid, the Church’s ongoing efforts to assist Venezuelans in Colombia are also focusing on self-sufficiency programs. Church-sponsored personal growth initiatives include free training on starting and growing a small business and managing personal finances — along with training on finding and improving employment opportunities through education.

Many Venezuelan migrants have also participated in Church-sponsored English classes.