Photos: Yo tengo un sueño

After going more than 12 hours without eating, some kids faint when they get to school. I didn’t hear that second hand, I saw it myself while I accompanied sister María Luisa Casar to the school she founded almost 15 years ago, U.E. Jenaro Aguirre Elorriaga in Petare, one of the most dangerous slums in Caracas.

“The figures of malnutrition in Venezuela went from 1.1 million people in 2010-2012 to 3.7 million in 2015-2017, which means that the progress reached in the previous decade is lost,” said the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

A view of Petare, one of Caraca’s biggest slums.

Indeed, something must be done, so I formally created a civil association called “Yo tengo un sueño” (“I have a dream”) inspired in Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech. My dream is that every Venezuelan can go to bed on a full stomach.

Rampant malnutrition made me ask my acquaintances and friends in Caracas to promise to donate one kilo of non-perishable food per month. If 300 people came through, we’d have 300 kilos per month. We started collecting food and storing it at my home, but we soon had to move to other collection centers. I was contacted by all kinds of companies (yoga centers, restaurants, design stores, healthy food stores, universities) that offered their facilities to collect the food. Eventually, it dawned on us that we were already a huge group of people committed to changing the reality of 400 kids in the Jenaro Aguirre school in Petare.

The Metropolitana and Monteávila universities, for instance, invited me to talk about the project, and a group of UNIMET students approached me after one of those talks and told me that they wanted to be volunteers in the Petare school. This was the beginning of a very important program of our organization: English Thursdays and Fridays. It’s been four years since we implemented this program where volunteers meet at the UNIMET and teach English to the Jenaro school’s children. Thursdays are for kindergarten, and Fridays for elementary level. There’s no high school level in this institution, but some of the kids who have attended other schools for their secondary education have told us that thanks to our weekly English classes it’s been easier for them to learn the language, compared to other children who were never taught the language in their own schools.

 Some estimate that eight out of every ten children don’t have proteins in their basic diet.

400 children eat daily in the Jenaro Aguirre school, and the need grows by the day. By early 2018, malnutrition had increased to 72% in the poorest areas of the country. Susana Raffalli, nutritionist and expert in food security, said that Venezuela has regressed at least 50 years in this matter. Dr. Verónica Martínez, a pediatrician who has worked in the Jenaro school’s dispensary for the past two years, says that malnutrition is intimately related to issues in the child’s psychomotor development, and it’s also one of the main causes of diarrhea, skin infections and diseases that we hadn’t seen in our country for a long time, such as measles, diphtheria and chickenpox. Martínez estimates that eight out of every ten children don’t have proteins in their basic diet.

“My dream is that every Venezuelan can go to bed on a full stomach.”

Today, we have 20 volunteers. Among them is Jessica, who asked for food donations instead of presents for her baby in her baby shower; Roberta, who offered yoga classes in Parque El Retiro, Madrid, on behalf of our organization; a group of Venezuelans in Münich who set up a yearly Christmas party to support our organization; New York-based artist Alberto Barrios and goldsmith Jessie Dib, who have made pieces and donated a part of their returns to our organization.

We’ve also worked with Casa Hogar Madre Teresa de Calcuta, where we’ve helped 80 elderly people along with the team of Fundación Barriga Llena Corazón Contento. We’re always on the lookout for alliances with projects set on helping those in need.

In these last six years, hunger has steadily increased in Venezuela, but the will to help has grown too. In a good month, we’ve managed to collect 500 kilos of food. Everytime we enter the Jenaro’s kitchens, we’re greeted with gratitude and love. We feel welcome in a slum that keeps hope alive, even when it’s going through its darkest moments.

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33 COMMENTS

  1. I regularly queue for food when some hard to get stapples reaches a supermarket, find contact with the big mix of people exhilarating , lots of grannies, young people , working mothers , middle age folk from the barrios , some come from far away places , all avidly seeking what I seek , food for our stomachs and that of our loved ones , the queues are long but the contact with ordinary people rewarding , there is a mood of bitternes and held back indignation but also a spirit of childish glee at being able to buy some hard to get food , they also reminiscence how good it was in the past , how you could go anywhere and buy anything you wanted , none of them have anything but contempt for the regime and its ‘thieves’ , many mumble ‘this has to end soon’ , everyone exchanges life stories , you have to spend hours lined up like cattle and at some point have to give up your id cards in return for a tiny piece of paper with a number that means that you are on your way to buying the stuff you want ..lots of people discover that they havent got the money to buy the two bags of rice or cornmeal or whatever that is being offered , so they only take one bag and leave the rest ……., some in the queue will offer to buy their stuff in return for getting it handed to them after leaving the food shop ….. , people who have some handicapp or women expecting a baby are treated with special consideration , for the most part people are kind and modest and often sassy and easy going , being with them makes me proud of being a venezuelan ……

    • Bill, I would assume you would be more proud if those standing in endless lines would vociferously criticize/complain/condemn the Govt’s (in)action.

      • If you track world statistics youll notice that violence be it criminally or epically inspired is a young mens game , women in general and men after a certain age even if indignant are not usually prone to engaging in violence specially where the odds of being injured or killed by better armed and cruellly fanatized hoodlums is high. People prize the safety of their skin over the lofty emotional rewards of heroic action …….It can happen that a people as a whole regardless of age or physical condition will sometimes join others in heroic and epic struggles , but absent some strong training and indoctrination its very seldom the case ……!! My pride in them has a different cause………in their inherent goodness and simplicity in how they treat other people , in their good humour and generosity even in times of despair.

  2. Is this type of private (as opposed to government funded) charity unusual in Venezuela. I ask thst only because I have read a number of posts by Bill Blass that seemed to suggest that. In the US private charity is organized just as the good program described in the article. I participate in one of several in my hometown where we donate the good, cook and serve it at a private homeless shelter. There is no government involvement and everyone is a volunteer. Unfortunately it is not a solution as I see the same recipients rreturn time and again but it effectively and efficiently feeds people.

  3. “The figures of malnutrition in Venezuela went from 1.1 million people in 2010-2012 to 3.7 million in 2015-2017, which means that the progress reached in the previous decade is lost,”

    “Martínez estimates that eight out of every ten children don’t have proteins in their basic diet”

    I’ll try and ask for a reply under the new censorship here on CC comments.

    First of all thx to the author for a great insight. It shows how brutal Marxism-Chavismo really is. My honest question is how on earth it’s possible that still 5million + support this socialist experiment (failed like socialism failed everywhere) whilst witnessing the results on a daily bases? And why the rest isn’t. …you know … protesting en mass, or resisting in any way shape or form. It’s mind boggling how this pueblo has just laid down like an obedient dog!

    • The government controls most f the communications media and their never ending message is that it is somebody else’s fault. Make a big show about stuff they’re supposedly doing and eventually the people starts buying their rhetoric.

      A kid in my building used to go to all the marches and suddenly stopped doing so. One day I’m gearing up to go to a march, saw the kid and saked him if he was coming. Gave me an add look and said nothing. The other kids told me that “something” had happened to him, during during his last march, when he was arrested.

      When I first started going to the marches there were so many people you couldn’t see where it started and where it ended. But as people started getting beat badly, arrested and things done to them, people became afraid. If you beat up a dog, it will lay down not out of obidience, but out of fear. And I think that’s a big part of what happened to el pueblo.

  4. I don’t understand how people in vzla can afford to donate. Most Venezuelans are losing weight and don’t earn enough to make ends meet. I ship food to my family in vzla regularly and it is not enough but at least that way they don’t starve and hopefully don’t lose more weight. Btw my family are all educated professionals but thanks to chavismo they can’t find or afford food on their salary of under $10 a month. (No they never voted for Chavez FYI)

    Even the collection sites seem pricey. Yoga class at 1/3 minimum wage each. Shops that sell cold pressed juice, gourmet foods etc. at exorbitant prices.

    Seriously who are the Venezuelans that patronize these stores? And how are they able to donate food?

    I would appreciate any insight.

    Ps
    Btw Has this charity considered donations of condoms? I hate the idea of people having kids they can’t afford to feed.

    • hi! The people who donate the food is not necessarily the store’s owners. They offer their business as a “centro de acopio” where people from Caracas go and donate 1 kg of Harina Pan for example. I personally met a women who came from Petare to Altamira just to leave 1 kilo of food to donate. It’s not about the owners of these expensive stores. It’s about unity. If 300 people donate one kilo each, we have 300 kilos for the kids in the schools we help.

      • They post theo **charity** on gofundme and try getting publicity by all means(like someone said, if their project to feel good about themselves is so great let others write about it) then they post some tearjerker pictures of starving kids, get a bunch of $$$ on donations,use a large part on printing tshirts and banners to tell the world how much they care(if they actually cared they should think about how many people would be fed with the money wasted on those tshirts and keychains and whatnot) use about $100 in making cheap soup or stew and pocket the rest.
        Thats how most charities work,because is not about the poor, is about them and how good they are for caring and making a difference only to scam money and get virtual pats on the head.

        • Hi @Beatrice! Maybe you didn’t read properly! First, we don’t ask for money, but food. Second, we don’t earn money from this. We all are volunteers who have jobs, we have ingeneers, photographers, art directors and all kind of professions. Secondly, we don’t cook for them, there are a crew from the community who are employed in the school, most of them are mothers, aunts or grandparents of these children who study in this specific school. We don’t even have go fund me, you enter to our website and you can’t donate, either you donate one kilo of food, or you go weekly to teach English. Those are our programs. I don’t think that the mothers of the kids are going to cook a shitty soup or stew for them! They cook delicious! I invite you to come and try their amazing food. Best, Michu!!!

          • How can you go teach English when you’re needing a couple lessons yourself since you can’t even spell engineer properly. ..Christ. …anyways this is all done to feel good about yourself and get attention. I wonder how long until those precious vulnerable kids shank you to take the iPhone you use to document your safari through the Petare slums

        • I don’t teach English there so don’t worry about my grammar 🙂 We have an amazing group of volunteers who do it! And we’re very proud of it! We need more people who feel good about themselves than haters like you who call Petare a “safari”!! What do you do to feel better? Please!!

  5. Is this excerpt correct:

    With operations grinding to a halt, PDVSA has burned through much of its inventories for gasoline and diesel. As a result, around 80 percent of the entire country’s fuel stations have had to suspend sales, according to Argus. “The national gasoline deficit is the worst it has ever been,” a senior official with the federation of oil unions (FUTPV) told Argus Media in early November. “Venezuela could be completely out of gasoline and diesel for vehicles in as little as a week.” Argus said that PDVSA issued widespread sale suspensions in late October. The dwindling supply of crude oil is now mostly being diverted to the international market so that PDVSA can earn some revenues needed to meet debt obligations.

    “There is no gasoline, the production of gasoline in the country is practically paralyzed. The Amuay refinery has no product to produce…In addition, 70% of the gasoline produced in the country is not converted into end consumer product,” Iván Freites, secretary of the workers union FUTPV told Today Venezuela.

    http://www.oilprice.com

  6. There are different ways in which you feed yourself in Venezuela :
    1. the very lucky use their own money or money sent by relatives abroad to buy the food they can find at the very high prices at which they can be bought . (shortages plus hyperinflation are making everyone have a hard time)
    2. Others have enough money to buy some of the food they can find but need to supplement their food needs by queing for food which is sold at subsidised prices thru the ordinary supermarket chains , supply is erratic but if you make enough queues and are lucky you get the essentials .
    3. Some ,the very worst off get their food through the governemnt distribution of so called clap bags , the distribution is not regular and the quality of the staples is of the very worst but the price is really cheap compared to other sources. the clap bags have some but never all the food your family needs .
    4. If you are a govt employee you get access to better clap bags at more regular intervals , if you are military you get the best bags of all .
    5.there are plenty of shortages where some staples dissapear and can only be purchased through bachaqueros (oftehn in cahoots with military or political honchos) and the highest prices , now they can be purchased because they break the bags down into minuscule portions which are more affordable .
    6. then there are private organizations or groups like the one you read about in the above blog which use donations to cater to specially vulnerable people like orphans or school kids in barrios or old peoples homes
    I have relatives who dedicate much of their time collecting food and other services to give to these very vulnerable groups , they also organize medican or dental treatment for people who cant access it .
    What I have written about in my previous text is form 2 of getting your food in Venezuela .

  7. Michu, God bless you and yours–there is a special place in Heaven for you, just as there is a special place in Hell for those who have ruined/plundered Venezuela. 8 of 10 children eating no protein is catastrophic–a Cuban driver 10 years ago in Venezuela, who predicted the Cubanization of Venezuela and soon left with family to eventually cross the Mexican border by foot to U.S. residency, told me of his 18-yr. old Cuban-resident aunt, who, deprived of protein as a child, one day while combing her hair in front of a mirror suddenly couldn’t see anymore–she had lost her sight permanently due to optic nerve damage due to protein deficiency as a child. This/similar problems originated Castro’s “Mision Milagro”, Cuban/L.A. vaunted eyesight/eyeglasses Cuban doctors program, publicized as a great humanitarian gesture, but born of a great Cuban Castro-inflicted tragedy.

  8. Has anyone ever published a height survey for LatAm countries versus elsewhere, short height caused by poor childhood nutrition?

    All of the landscaping guys I see every morning at 7-11 are freaking TINY.

    • I agree, It’s beyond amazing what people can achieve when motivated by a Marxist dictatorship. I for one am loving it. Let’s hope the whole world turns Marxist so we can witnesses these amazing efforts worldwide!! Im sure it must make you so proud being a true Marxist Canucklehead, this is your dream coming true!

  9. Oh another champion of the poor on track to get a Nobel prize and scamming thousands on donations only to take pictures once a month of you handing out leftovers of soup, arepas with no filling, yuca or whatever cheap scraps you gather to justify the money given by your benefactors abroad to the underprivileged starving critters who will most likely stab you one day when you refuse to give them seconds. Another self righteous self advertising “savior” publicising your charity in order to trick poor sods overseas into feeling guilty and giving you more money for your “project” so you can blow it on weekends doing coke in some bar in las Mercedes or the latest iPhone, but it’s okay because once a month you go to take pictures with them in their natural habitat! You’re surely making a difference.
    P.s most of those little angels you’re “helping ” to feel good about yourself have been shat through the cervix by chavez and maduro supporters.

  10. Dear Beatrice! Your comments give me and my team more strength to raise unheard people’s voice. You think you can talk about a Go Fund Me that does´t exist and you won’t receive an answer??? Or talk about a place where you haven’t been? Some of these “little angels” are now in Europe thank to the School Choral. Or are studying in the University trough a scholarship. So I think that we’re doing something good. My darling, I don’t live in a bubble, I am happy that I can have a conversation with you in a language that’s not my native language. Some people can’t stand that there’s people doing nice things. As I agree that “Trolls will be trolls”, I will leave this here, but you´ll be always welcome to add positive vibes to our project! For example we’re looking for people to help us with the English Program, where you seem to know a lot about!!!!! We always need more songs and activities that the kids will enjoy while learning basic English Vocabulary. If you need an email where you can send that stuff, let me know, we’ll be very grateful! Love and more love for you!!!!

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