Photo: courtesy

Two years ago, I turned my life upside down. Reorganized it completely around one goal: helping Venezuelans get out. The survivor’s guilt of knowing I’d left while those I loved were stuck, suffering, gnawed at me. I changed everything, moved cities, left my husband behind and started a new career just so I could help people escape.

Since I was a child, I knew I’d leave Venezuela. I wanted to be left alone, but I was born in a culture where people are together all the time and personal space is an unknown concept. Being gay didn’t help. I yearned for a place where I wouldn’t be defined by my sexual orientation (“ayyyy, marico”), where I didn’t feel smothered by the small-town morals of people surrounding me. Life was already hard as an atheist faggot in Valera.

Approaching my graduation from Universidad de Los Andes, in 2007, I realized Venezuela was full of opportunities. If things were stable and we had access to foreign markets, there was so much we could do!

I didn’t want to leave, even if I didn’t completely fit in. I was in love with the dream. It was never about patriotism, it was about the possibility of using my knowledge to help others and make money while doing it.

I created a biotech company, people got interested, we got featured in the journal Nature, and we got a grant from the Chilean government. It all failed in the end. It was messy. I fought tooth and nail against it, but it finally dawned on me: Venezuela was going to crash and, if I was foolish enough to stay, it would drag me down with it.

It was never about patriotism, it was about the possibility of using my knowledge to help others and make money while doing it.

I moved to Chile, tried my luck and failed. I did odd jobs, taught at a university, cleaned the proverbial toilets, made beds. I got depressed, considered suicide. I rejected marriage proposals from the man who is now my husband, twice. But not for a second did I consider returning home. Home as I knew it was gone.

I got better, married the man I loved, moved to the U.S., got the much-needed emotional support, and seemed to be back on track. But the situation in Venezuela kept getting worse, and even those who never thought about leaving finally understood that it wasn’t really a choice but a necessity.

Slowly, I started getting depressed again, because I was completely powerless to help them. Because no matter how good I was at my PhD or at science communication, how much my husband loved me, the rest of my life would be torture: sentenced to watch the people I love suffer or die under the monstrous and heartless destruction of the country caused by Chávez, his allies and his successor. Hunger, illness or violence, lots of people would die. I had to do something.

But what?

I am not a warrior, I am a thinker, and I am doing what I know: I think.

In 2016, as Venezuela decomposed, I decided to change careers, retrain. A friend suggested I try data science, a new field with lots of demand and legendary salaries; all that exotic, seemingly useless math I’d learned for fun for my second degree took on a new relevance. These days I have a sweet job at Slice, a tech company in Silicon Valley as a data scientist, and I am using that income to help people emigrate.

So far, two months into 2018, I have helped 29 people to get out of Venezuela.

A 65-year-old grandmother from Barquisimeto, a 36-year-old engineer from Valera, a 25-year-old tour guide from Valera, a motorcycle courier from Caracas and two biologists in their thirties from Mérida. A doctor from Barquisimeto, and his entire family.

The goal is simple: to help pay for tickets, rent apartments and lend a hand until people get jobs and are able to fend for themselves.

They’re just a handful of the almost three million Venezuelans who have left the country. Some are family, some are friends, others are complete strangers who have been ready to leave and needed a boost. They don’t deserve to be crushed and die because of chavismo. It’s not their fault that — like most people — they never planned to move out until it was too late.

This year, I decided we needed to scale up. That’s why I launched the Salto Project: an organization to help people emigrate.

The goal is simple: to help pay for tickets, rent apartments and lend a hand until people get jobs and are able to fend for themselves, so they can help their family back home and help others to emigrate as well.

This isn’t just an idea in the making. The project is up and running already. In one apartment in Santiago we’re giving Venezuelans the chance for a new beginning. We’ve helped Venezuelans start a new life, in Lima, Quito, Panama City, and Bogota.

Some days I’m tired. I miss my husband back in Colorado, I miss my home, I’m overworked. But then I get a WhatsApp message, or I see a Facebook post, a picture with bright eyes and smiles, even if la procesión va por dentro, I know I’m doing the right thing.

For those people, this makes all the difference.

Please help us to continue doing this. Donate to Salto Project.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Advise to the world: it’s easier to remove the gang than to try to “save” millions of people.

    The “plan” (castro and his puppets) was always to remove all venezuelans from their land and kept for them (the castros) all the natural resources (remember this land is the richest in the world in oil, energy, and mostly rich in every single natural resource!!!). Incredibly, one person or two (the castros) are keeping everything for them while pushing out millions (of fellow venezuelans)!

    Here is the stage of the plan right now: “sentenced to watch the people I love suffer or die under the monstrous and heartless destruction of the country caused by Chávez, his allies and his successor. Hunger, illness or violence, lots of people would die. ”

    This is it: “plan” is to put it place all the incentives to force people to leave “their” land.

    Delincuencia, hampa, colectivos, farc, gnb, secuestradores, everything that is called “inseguridad” are the first “incentive” created by castro (remember last year when all these mentioned groups or forces merged in one force to keep the gang in power? Remember when “malandros” became “buenandros”? Or even when “hampa” is not “true” it’s just an invention by the “imperialist media”?). Crisis economica, hiperinflacion, salarios de un dolar, starvation, are another “incentive” (“guerra economica del imperio). And go on. Escaces de medicina, de alimentos, mala calidad de los productos, falta de oportunidades, falta de energia electrica (en la tierra con mas opciones energeticas del planeta entero!!!): todos creados como “incentivos” del plan de los castros.

    La burla permanente de la banda gobernante, including all branches of the “state”, and even including las caras visibles de un liderazgo politico opositor amoldado are the incentives to kill any hope, and all of these as part of the same plan. The future has been painted in black, really dark, so people have been forced to think that if the gang finally falls (from power) the future will be darker!!!. Indeed, venezuelans have been forced to think that. Therefore, even their minds have been kidnapped.

    Castros’ plan is so obvious that even the families of the puppets already left the land: los chavez, los rodriguez, los cabellos, los ramirez, all gone. The reason is that according to the plan only two groups of people are allowed to stay: the colectivos-hampa-farc (the so-called fanb) and the the “workers” (arbeit mach frei).

    All in all, people have only one decision: leave or die (which is the castro’s plan fully displayed) … unless people think twice, organize (think before fight), rebel and “vuelvan caras”.

    • “Advise to the world: it’s easier to remove the gang than to try to “save” millions of people.”
      Amen brother.
      And not because as a practical matter would be relatively easier, but where is the dignity and the moral values to allow this level of impunity take place letting these criminal get away with murder.
      What are we going to tell our children that we ran away and let others take away our land and destroy it?
      What about the hundred of Venezuelans that have given their life fighting the regime?
      This project is an embarrassment and urge its founder to reconsider.
      I’d have liked to see him expressing some counterpoints if he pretends to be a man of science and intellect so other could understand his point of view.

      • Why would he bother in give you a reply, at all? What I do think is an utter embarrassment is your comment, a mish mash of idiocy, arrogance and chauvinism del bueno. What a waste of bytes. And what a display of chauvinistic selfishness. No, people must not leave to save whatever is left of their lives, people must stay an die to satisfy the chauvinistic fantasies of a clique of chauvinistic radicals. Beyond belief.

  2. “They’re just a handful of the almost three million Venezuelans who have left the country.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the latest estimations are at over 4 Million, probably close to 5 Million by the end of the year.

  3. Hi there! I left Venezuela 4 years ago to Beijing and became an English teacher. I’ve been helping friends from all over the world that speak English to find jobs either online teaching or straight in China.

    Whoever knows Chinese society understand that there is plenty of opportunity for young venezuelans that have a proper English level and are somehow good looking (Blame it on China, not me) to find a job with a payment better than any refugee salary.

    For example, by teaching taiwanese and chinese kids online 5 hours a day, you’ll be able to make up to 4 times Colombia’s minimum wage.

    However, most Chinese people are super racist and there are certain requirements that are a bit odd to explain here without losing track so, just keep that on mind.

    As crazy as it sounds, I think it might be useful to achieve your project’s powerful goal and I’m here to help in any possible way.

    Xi Nian Kuai Le! my dogs!

    • I don’t know if I fit the bill re good looks, but my English is good enough. Could you send me some contact information to jlaurentum at gmail dot com? Do you know if these guys pay online teachers in cryptocurrency?

    • Another good way to go, although is harder. Is to get a job in any international school for one or two years and then apply to international schools overseas. I’m the Computer Class teacher in a school in Korea. Also, worked fine for a lot of people that worked in those schools too.

    • Hey Wolf! Hook me up!

      Been a writer for years now, but would like to go back to teaching. I moved to Chile, but I see this country is not offering much for someone like me. I used to teach english online for a Taiwanese company a few years ago and like the idea of going to Asia. Unfortunately, never got around to it and stayed in Venezuela. Last year I was forced to flee, but I´m still looking for good opportunities for me as an ESL teacher.

      Tell me about China, Korea and Taiwan. My kid is in love with asian culture and movies.

      My addy is marcel_casella at yahoo dot com

  4. Chavismo and Cuba are probably already applauding this and other other projects, so Millions of malcontent Venezuelans leave their Guisos Sabrosos alone. The more people that leave, the better. It was an important part of the integral Castro-Chavista Master Plan, from day one.

    Superb plan, in all fairness: They get rid of about 20% of the entire adult population, usually the most critical, better educated, dangerous ones, (my official Presidential Candidate, the glamorous Demoiselle Mrs Iris Varela, just called them “Guarimberos, que se vayan y no vuelvan!”..) In return, they get billions of US$, Euros, (or washed-up Trillions of Trillions of Bolivars, same difference) Billions in Remesas, they steal some of that, and get to steal more of the rest, since TWENTY % of the best, adult population no longer needs to be fed or policed. Brilliant Castrista strategy indeed, with proven results decade after decade.

    And for those who think they will return to “la patria”, or say they will, I say: Y las vacas vuelan. 93.98% of the 5 MILLION will not ever return. Nor their children and grand-children. The incalculable damage of such irreversible, massive Brain Drain, a veritable Exodus comparable to African or European Genocides, is going unnoticed by most people thus far.

    Eventually, whatever’s left of Klepto-Cubazuela will pay the hefty price of this enormous Exodus of MOST of the best people Venezuela once had. (Notice I keep repeating Most, not all, the vast majority of educated adults, gone for good). For generations to come, not just decades to come.

    There will be no oil, astronomical, unforgivable international debts, and close to zero skilled and well-educated human capital left. Good luck “reconstruyendo la patria” with that, oh corrupt, Muddy MUD!

  5. So let me get this straight.
    If you are very successful at this your plan will empty Venezuela of all its population and leave our country to the Narco-Regime. That is very coward act to say the least.

    I’m sorry to say that, but if you are a “thinker” you really need to think this through. How about using simple math and logic instead of just blind feelings of sympathy.

    I’d rather spend the resources on a more just and efficient cause to remove the criminals from power, bring them to face justice so people can live in their own country peacefully as it should be.

    By the way, your project at most could only help a very tiny fraction of the population is not really a good solution and still leave a dangerous regime threatening the stability of the entire region which include millions of more people.

    • “I’d rather spend the resources on a more just and efficient cause to remove the criminals from power, bring them to face justice so people can live in their own country peacefully as it should be.”

      hehe… good luck with that 😉

      • This project is running away from the problem rather than facing it and will consolidate the Chavista regime even further like has been the case for Cuba when the US opened the escape valve to all Cubans wanting to leave.
        Long term, this wont solve anything and exacerbate the brain drain.
        In fact, if I was Maduro I’d donate a shit load of money to Salto Project so the opposition can leave him alone as Dictator for decades to come.
        Obviously Quico is a radical pacifist (as in cowardice) given that there are other oppositions projects who have more logical approaches that never get mentioned here even though are coming from reputable Venezuelans with much longer experience in these affairs.

        • So, Guido should not, must not help the individuals or families that wish, desperately, to escape the hell Venezuela is now. No. They should stay to satisfy the chauvinistic wet dreams of you and others. Amazing.

      • Whaddaya mean? Instead of using the money to evacuate a few thousand venezuelans, he could just hire a good sniper and bam! Settle it.

        Then again, it might not be such a good idea as that would make a martyr out of that piece of shit, sorry ass excuse of a human being that goes by the name of “Ripe” (maduro)

    • In more of “y tu que propones”
      please by all means create and fund an initiative for all your friends and family to stay in Venezuela and fight for her, please remember to register to vote, CNE was very kind to open the “registro” for a few days.
      when and if you are still in Venezuela please let us know how to help you to bravely stay there with all your friends and family and let us know in a few years how is it coming.

      by the way the thinker you are referring to is very far from a coward..is about the bravest person I know.
      dont be your average guerrero del teclado and put your money where your mouth is

      good luck in your project and dont forget to send us the link so we can Opinar too!

    • In more of “y tu que propones”
      please by all means create and fund an initiative for all your friends and family to stay in Venezuela and fight for her, please remember to register to vote, CNE was very kind to open the “registro” for a few days.
      when and if you are still in Venezuela please let us know how to help you to bravely stay there with all your friends and family and let us know in a few years how is it coming.

      by the way the thinker you are referring to is very far from a coward..is about the bravest person I know.
      dont be your average guerrero del teclado and put your money where your mouth is

      good luck in your project and dont forget to send us the link so we can Opinar too!

  6. It would be great to find ways to make this project more scalable and self-sustainable. For example:
    1. Aim for recurring, instead of one-time, donations. A la Patreon.
    2. Consider including a pledge for people who have been helped to put 5% of their income for the next 5 years back into the program.

  7. I think some of you guys are being way too hard on this guy. He’s doing something for his countrymen, and you’re criticizing him for it?

  8. I think it’s great that you have chosen to dedicate yourself to helping our fellow Venezuelans. However, I think it would be best -and your/people’s dollars would go much further- if you HELP THEM STAY AND NOT LEAVE VENEZUELA.

    Once they are out, most will not come back, not anytime soon at least. And if everyone leaves, like in Cuba or Lebanon, the thugs in power will most likely remain entrenched for many years to come.

  9. Like many others, I believe the answer is getting people NOT to leave Venezuela, and I say this as a Venezuelan still in Venezuela. Im not about to surrender my country to these asswipes so they can enjoy the stolen loot at their leisure (kinda hard with all them sanctions though).

    I’ve found a way to survive: via cryptocurrencies, which can be easily bought and sold with bolivares.

    So my game changing idea is to educate my countrymen in the use of cryptos set up some kind of platform whereby people from anywhere in the world could donate cryptos directly into the wallets of venezuelans in need. It would simply be a site where the beneficciary posts his picture, a short bio, and of course his bitcoin, litecoin, etc. wallet address. With the agreement of both parties, the beneficciary could contact the donor to thank him or her, as I believe gratitude is a very important and beautiful thing. Its important to know that we can have a positive effect on other people’s lives and that those who help us now their help is much appreciated.

    There it is. Simple, direct, no bureaucracy and no possibility of me getting rich off of making use of the donations for others (por si acaso). If you want, you can contact me via my website:

    https ://unamatematicaseltigre.blogspot.com

    My contact information is there, in the interacción tab. Maybe together we can polish up this idea and turn it into a reality. I firmly believe blockchain technology is our best weapon against these assholes.

  10. Mr. Guido, can you tell why did you fail in Chile?, i’m thinking to move there myself.

    Does your initiative help people to migrate to Chile or just to US?

    The help i think i need is legal more than economical.

  11. People Have the right to choose what to do with their life. If staying in Venezuela is not an option it is okay. If the option is staying and fight or not, just staying. It is okay too. I think you initiative is great and I congratulate you for it.

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