Photo: Impact Hub retrieved

As more attention is paid to the fast-growing Venezuelan diaspora across the continent, it’s easy to lose sight of the problems their countrymen still face at home. 

Take the state of our educational system, for example, or more specifically the school meal program that many students in the country need, not only to carry on with their learning, but to sustain themselves on a basic nutritional level. Both the National Assembly and NGO Fundaredes have recently denounced the poor conditions of the School Nutrition Program (known as PAE). 

Besides Nicolás Maduro’s new proposal to expand the CLAP program into our schools, seems like there are few options left, but a new crowdfunding campaign wants to change that.

The first project of RedRETO, a new NGO presented in Madrid last June, aims at raising funds for a self-sustainable school lunchroom in Rio El Pilar, in Sucre, Eastern Venezuela, not just to provide daily meals for students, but to help the community harvest and prepare food on their own.

For this plan, they have the support of fellow NGO Fundación San José (Venezuela) which works in Sucre and came up with the assessment and proposal. In order to set up the crowdfunding campaign, they joined forces with Spanish NGO Acción Contra el Hambre and Universo Crowdfunding.

RedRETO’s co-founder and president, Anamaría Oxford, told me about the project’s overall scope:

“The first stage is to establish a kitchen garden for foods with nutritional variety. The fathers in the community will be in charge of building the infrastructure, which is simple but functional, and the mothers will be trained to handle and prepare the meals with products from the garden, which will serve to provide nutritive dishes to 51 children twice a day.”

The crowdfunding campaign, then, “serves as a mechanism to allow the diaspora and those concerned with the current situation in Venezuela to support a project that helps 254 people in Rio El Pilar.”

RedRETO has identified what they define as “action pillars” in which they expect to work: child malnourishment, empowerment of women, education and building peaceful spaces.

“These are the four most sensitive issues of the complex crisis. These areas of action are framed in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (set by the UN in 2015) and they’re an important starting point that can generate small changes inside unassisted communities that will grow in developing capacities and advancing into more impactful changes,” Oxford explains.

RedRETO wants to work in alliance with other NGOs, inside and outside of Venezuela, under the principle of international cooperation. They also want to assist local groups in executing projects.

“Social work in Venezuela right now implies risks and working under pressure,” Oxford says. “But we can’t lay down and not seek change, we‘ll make the effort to change living conditions and chances for a better future.”

Even if RedRETO is considering other endeavours that tackle the humanitarian crisis in a more immediate way, their focus seems to be more on the long term: “We’re convinced that we can generate and execute sustainable projects, starting in smaller communities, because we’re betting on the future of our country and that requires an effort and inversion.”

Reto is the Spanish word for challenge, and there’s no mistake that trying to offer any kind of relief, not to say a solution to our crisis, fits the word. RedRETO seems to not just accept the stakes of such a challenge, it also tackles it in a manner that sets strong civic foundations.

You can help with their first challenge, the Rio El Pilar School Lunchroom. The crowdfunding campaign is still open and you have until November 3rd to donate.

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