World Central Kitchen’s Chef Relief Team has been in Cúcuta, on the border of Venezuela and Colombia, since the last week of February.
When we first arrived, 40,000 Venezuelans were crossing the border legally for food and supplies on a daily basis. Since then, however, entry to these legal routes was abruptly shut down, cutting off access to affordable food and leaving many stuck in Colombia. Nevertheless, thousands of Venezuelans continue to cross at dangerous, unofficial crossings every day.
In response, our WCK team quickly started distributing nutritious bagged lunches to shelters throughout the city.
At the same time, we started learning from migration experts, teachers, local police, doctors, journalists and UN officials. They pointed to the need reaching inside country – to the roads where hundreds of Venezuelan refugees are making the months-long journey to a new life.
We set out to follow their path and found hundreds of people making the treacherous journey along a narrow road with everything they own on their backs. Everyone we met was fleeing hunger.
Their journey is marked by stops along the way at informal shelters and rest stops. Most of these spaces are run by Colombian citizens using their own resources to help, because they could not stand idly by. Some are Venezuelans themselves who fled home and now want to support others. They’re providing food, temporary shelter and basic medical supplies.
We’re now set up to bring these shelters hundreds of nutritious, hot meals every day. Our Chef Relief Team cooks these meals in our kitchen in Cúcuta with our team of local volunteers and culinary school students. Then, our incredible crew of drivers deliver them along the route.
Additionally, we’ve asked women like Mairez, a Venezuelan who now runs a roadside shelter, how else we can serve. In response to what she said, we have installed gas stoves in her kitchen and others. These stoves are not only more efficient than wood, but they’re safer; a typical cooking fire produces about 400 cigarettes’ worth of smoke an hour. For Marta Duque (pictured below) and others, we’re now paying for the gas they need to be able to cook more meals each day.
While we recognize the political situation in Venezuela remains uncertain, the movement of refugees will not abate, and we’re here to serve them on this journey.
We believe that food has no sides, no agenda.
Whenever there is a fight so that hungry people may eat, we will be there.
We must be there.