A Beacon of Hope in Venezuela

The Venezuelan exodus represents the largest displacement in recent Latin American history, with more than 5 million Venezuelans currently force to leave their homes since 2015. While millions have fled Venezuela, those who remain in the country face extreme hardships like lack of access to medical care, essential services, and basic necessities like food and clean water. Despite the challenges, there are people working hard every day to bring hope and humanitarian support to the people in their community. Samuel Díaz Pulgar, a Venezuelan who now resides in the United Kingdom, and his organization Nutriendo el Futuro (Nourishing the Future), are doing just that.

Nutriendo el Futuro is a community kitchen and empowerment initiative that Samuel co-founded with four friends[1] at university during his undergrad studies. Nutriendo el Futuro has been operating since 2018 and focuses on providing nutrition, educational opportunities, and female empowerment to the municipality of El Hatillo, just outside of Caracas. The community kitchen provides dinners for children instead of the typical breakfast and lunch, which is a unique effort generated from the community with an important purpose.

“The whole rationale behind it is that we identified that if we put children in a situation where they had to choose to go to school or to eat, they were going to choose to eat. So, to guarantee that kids keep going to school, we provide dinner and make it a requirement that children need to be enrolled and attend school to receive the dinner.”

Nutriendo el Futuro also helps to empower community members to organize and implement the project and is crucial in combatting child malnutrition in El Hatillo. According to the World Food Program, malnutrition can be a matter of life and death, and in the long term can hold back individuals, communities, and countries, undermining economies and development. Providing nutrition and community support to children can make an enormous impact both at an individual and societal level.

Samuel says his work is very fulfilling for him, but it comes with its challenges—especially with access to resources in a complicated political and social environment like that of Venezuela. “Hyperinflation changes the availability of certain products, so we had to adapt each week to the products that are available in the supermarket,” he told Refugees International. “And migration, some of the children leave because their parents have left so we are not able to follow up on their progress that makes a difference.”

Securing funding has been particularly challenging since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Donors surged resources to pandemic support, but Samuel says things like nutrition programs have been harder to rally support for. Even though it only costs USD $10 a month to feed a child, securing stable funding this project from the international community has been difficult.

Access to basic services also presents immense challenges. “Clean water access is one of the biggest problems because it takes up to six months to up to a year to progress in child nutrition. If a child gets one parasite from contaminated water and that leads to diarrhea or hepatitis, we can lose a year of progress in less than a week. So, therefore, access to basic services, electricity, or clean water makes a huge difference.”

Despite the challenges, Samuel’s favorite part of working with Nutriendo el Futuro is that he gets to see children grow, improve their cognitive development, attend school and work towards a brighter future. He would like his organization to expand and continue fighting for a better Venezuela. To so do he states that, “International support is key to add on to and support our efforts in making a difference on the ground. Their support makes a huge difference, it may be the difference between giving up and continuing.”

Samuel says the international community can help by sharing information about the Venezuelan situation and to support local NGO’s like Nutriendo el Futuro who are working on the ground to provide crucial services. He also wants the world to stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people and to view Venezuelans as agents of change.

“I don’t want the world to pity Venezuela. Yes, the situation is extremely dire and complicated. It is tiring and full of obstacles. But despite that, we want to focus on what we can do… We focus on the things we love, rather than on what is lost. We have a lot of love and energy. There are many people who are fighting and challenging the ordinary to make the extraordinary possible. Despite the crisis, we keep on trying.”

[1] Nutriendo el Futuro was founded by Samuel and his colleagues Monica Zambrano, Laura Morey, Ana Cristina Romano & Ana Luisa Ciordia.

BANNER PHOTO CAPTION: Handprints of children who receive meals from Nutriendo el Futuro. Photo Credit: Ivonne Velasco at Nutriendo el Futuro.