Ana is a young woman from Barinas, Venezuela, and mother of two children – a boy and a girl ages 14 and eight. Her son has cerebral palsy and often could not receive needed medical attention due to the lack of medicines and the prohibitively expensive costs of health care. The situation became worse when her employer, the government of Barinas, denied her benefits and coverage for care and medication that her son needed.
Her son suffered many complications due to the lack of treatment, so Ana decided to take him across the border into Cúcuta, Colombia, where he was hospitalized and able to recover. With his health temporarily stabilized, they returned to Venezuela to reunite with her daughter, collect a few belongings, and make their journey out of Venezuela.
In June 2018, the family began their journey to Barranquilla, Colombia. With both of her children lacking passports, they took informal paths to cross the border. Passing through a forested, mountainous region, their journey to reach Colombia took five hours on foot. They arrived in Maicao, Colombia, where someone helped them with their passage and gave them money for food. They eventually arrived in Barranquilla, but after three months Ana decided that the family should continue to Perú for a better life, especially for her son.
Upon arrival at the bus terminal of the Colombian capital, she noticed that thousands of her fellow Venezuelans were in the same situation, without direction or money and with a long way to go. “People asked me how I could go on like this with my children, and I would say to them, ‘God is great, and God has to help me,’” she said.
Mostly traveling on foot, it took seven days to reach the border of Ecuador. Once at the border between Ecuador and Colombia, she spent about three hours sitting on her suitcases thinking about what to do – should she stay in Ecuador or keep going to Perú? She chose to continue to Quito, where it was less populated with other Venezuelans in need. She arrived in Quito on September 15, 2018, and a few days later she met with JRS Ecuador, where she received support in a shelter that houses people in situations of high vulnerability. At the JRS shelter they connected with a JRS psychologist, who helped her to recover emotionally and develop positive coping mechanisms. Ana’s advice to those making the journey is, “Yes, you can do it! The journey is not easy, but you can meet good people along the way. I kept asking God to be with me and I kept holding on to hope as I told myself that I could make this journey. I did it not just for myself, but for my children.”