SAVING LIVES IN VENEZUELA

The economic crisis in Venezuela has created a severe shortage of food and medicine. The Venezuelan currency is virtually worthless now, and continues to lose value on a daily basis. Bloomberg forecasts that the inflation rate will be over 1,200,000% by the end of this year, and the International Monetary Fund predicts it will be 10,000,000% by the end of 2019. Ten million percent! The result is a humanitarian crisis which has brought the country to the edge of mass starvation. Most stores are empty, and even if food can be found, almost no one can afford to buy it.  People have no option but to eat from the garbage cans, and there is no medicine available to counteract the parasites they contract.  Hospitals have no antibiotics or other medicines to give, and no surgical supplies -- even needles and thread to sew up a wound are not available. Dozens of children are dying each day due to the lack of affordable baby formula and basic medicines. In this photo a group of doctors is protesting the lack of medicines two years ago -- and now the situation is even more dire...


I am an American, and my wife is from Venezuela. She was there last summer, and met a woman who had walked for 8 hours to reach a hospital, carrying her malnourished baby, and was heartbroken to learn that the hospital had no food or medicines to give them.  


We want to help. We've created an organization called "Saving Lives in Venezuela," which has the purpose of shipping food and other necessities into Venezuela, and distributing the donations to those most in need.  (Our project is known as "Seamos el Cambio" in Venezuela, meaning, "Let's Be the Change!") To date we have shipped in over 20 tons of food, baby formula, and medicines, and we have teams of volunteers in four Venezuelan cities that receive the supplies and distribute them to the poor in their areas.

This Gofundme page is for the purpose of raising money to buy and ship the items most needed by those who are suffering during this crisis, our primary focus being babies, young children, pregnant women, and the elderly. 

On November 28, 1018 we sent our 4th van shipment, 5,000 pounds of food and medical supplies, from Boston to Miami. From there it was sent to Caracas & Merida, Venezuela. This was the first time that we had too many supplies to fit in the van, so we had to rent a trailer to take it all. Here is our van & trailer fully loaded and ready to head out from Boston to Miami:
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Since then we driven several more van/trailer runs to Miami, and have also ordered numerous pallets of Outreach Meals, tuna, and other groceries, which have been delivered straight to our shipping company.

Since many young babies are dying in Venezuela from malnutrition, one of the most important items for our work is baby formula. Here our partners in Boston (www.AngelsAnswerInc.com) are preparing boxes of formula to send:

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Among the items we've sent are special nutritional supplements called Plumpy'Nut, used by Doctors Without Borders around the world, specially designed to combat severe malnutrition.  We sent $900 worth.

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Among the foods we've sent are dozens of cases of lentils, tuna, peanut butter, powdered milk, and cereals, plus hundreds of pre-packaged meals fortified with extra vitamins and protein. We've also sent hundreds of bars of soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorants and feminine products, plus baby bottles and teething rings, all of which are beyond the reach of most Venezuelans today. Here are some of the boxes from our first delivery.

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We have also sent in $1,200 worth of medicines that we bought in India -- and in India that buys a LOT of medicine.  Among the medicines we've sent are several  strong antibiotics, anti-parasitics, painkillers, anti-fungal creams, and asthma medicine, all of which are mostly unavailable in Venezuela. Here's the contents of the fist of 30 mixed bags of medicine that we've sent; it includes enough antibiotics to save 20 lives. Our team-leader in Caracas has begun donating the medicines to a team of doctors in a nearby hospital, and they're very happy to have it.

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We are also funding numerous projects on the ground in Venezuela, including large feedings once a week of poor children and abandoned elderly people. 

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Most recently our volunteers in Merida visited a hospital and fed many abandoned elderly people.

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The photo below is from another such feeding in Caracas, where our volunteers climbed up stone stairs for 40 minutes to reach one of the poorest (and most dangerous) neighborhoods in the city, in order to make a nourishing soup that they fed to 320 impoverished children. They also painted their faces and danced with them, giving them a rare taste of joy for the soul.

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Our volunteers make sure the food is served with a healing dose of love and compassion.

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OUR "SAVING LIVES" PROGRAM

To date we have brought 19 children with special health needs into our "Saving Lives" program, and are providing whatever medicine, food, or baby formula they may need. We give preference to children who come from very poor families.

Among these children is this charming boy Isaac,  shown here with his mom:

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Isaac has a severe fungal infection in the glands of his neck, a potentially fatal illness that requires 6 months of treatment with an expensive antibiotic that his mom cannot afford to buy. We located and purchased the antibiotics, and provided daily food for him and his mom until he was released from the hospital. We have also delivered a large supply of staple foods to their home. We will continue to support him in his recovery.

Below are before & after photos of one of the children in our "Saving Lives" program, Jose Manuel. He was abandoned by his mother when he was six months old. The first photo shows him as we first found him in the hospital, severely malnourished.  The photo below that shows him after only one month of drinking our baby formula and being fed Plumpty'Nut. Yes, it's the same child! 

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Here is another of our sweet success stories: Maikolito. When we met him he was dangerously underweight and fighting pneumonia: 

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And now look -- after a few weeks on our formula, he's an adorable chubby cherub!

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Below is Joseider Josue, who at 8 months old weighs little more than a newborn. His mother breastfed him for the first 3 months of his life, but then her breast milk dried up, and she began feeding him on nothing but water mixed with corn starch -- virtually no nutrition at all. He naturally fell into severe malnourishment. We're happy to say that after drinking our formula for some months Yoseider's condition improved, and after some months of taking our Plumpy'Nut supplement designed for malnourished children, he's looking great. Take a look:

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Another of our "Saving Lives' kids is Maryory (shown below with Ananta, our former team leader in Merida). Maryory needed surgery to remove a large benign tumor in her sinuses. We managed to procure all the items needed for her operation, including special medicines and a surgical saw needed to cut the bone of her nose. We even had to buy the robe and mask the surgeon would wear! We are happy to report that the surgery was successful, and post-operation Maryory is infection free and is now attending school, along with her two brothers.

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Another of our "Saving Lives" kids is Nelson, the boy shown below. He is 9 years old, has infantile paralysis, and suffers from severe malnutrition. When we met him he had been hospitalized for weeks, was so weak he could not sit up, and the doctors held little hope for his recovery. But our volunteers in the Merida area started bringing him a highly nutritious soup each day, and within two weeks his condition improved so much that he could sit up on his own, and was then released from the hospital. And now look at him! This is his smile when our volunteer Fernando arrived with food for him and his family. Believe it or not, his family says this is the first time IN HIS LIFE that they've seen Nelson smile.

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Living in dire poverty sometimes has terrible consequences, as was the case with 4-year-old Mercy, another of our "Saving Lives" children. She was brought to the hospital with several large open sores on the back of her  head. The doctors were shocked to find more than twenty maggots living in Marcy's flesh. In a long and painstaking procedure they removed all the maggots, and disinfected the sores, all without anesthesia, since the wounds were so close to her brain. What an ordeal for poor Mercy!

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Now (as you can see in the photo below) Marcy is in good spirits and on her way back to health. But she and her family will need medicine, food and personal hygiene products on an ongoing basis, which we will be providing.


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Omar (shown below) is another of our sweetest success stories. When we met him he was dangerously malnourished. And now, after a few months of our care, Omar has become an adorable chubby cherub!

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Our plan is to bring one new child into the program each week, assuming we've received enough donations to cover the expenses that come with the work.

Another vital need in Venezuela is diapers. They are very hard to find in the country, and too expensive for most people to buy, so parents are putting plastic bags on their babies instead, the result being thousands of cases of severe diaper rash.  (Pardon the graphic photo...) 

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One of our volunteers in the USA did a wonderful job of locating some super high quality reusable cloth diapers, and she and her co-workers did an amazing work of sewing inserts for each one, using recycled cloth.  We also found a large number of inexpensive cloth diapers, so a first shipment of 375 diapers arrived in Venezuela two months ago, along with 350 tubes of diaper rash ointment. 

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We recently learned that both of the hospitals we are working with are in urgent need of disposable diapers, especially for newborns. (Hospitals in Venezuela don't have the capacity to wash diapers; often they have no electricity and no running water. They cannot even feed their patients properly.) So, we made a connection with a diaper manufacturer in Florida, and bought more than 2000 baby diapers, plus 800 adult diapers and thousands of wet wipes, all for $700. This photo shows about one-fourth of that purchase:

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I want to introduce one of the most important links in our chain of Love: a very dear friend of ours, Linda S. Lloyd of www.AngelsAnswerInc.com, who runs a food bank in the Boston area. Linda has donated hundreds of boxes of high protein packaged meals,  as well as baby formula, over-the-counter medicines and other medical supplies. She's truly been an angel for this project! Yay, Linda! 

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A friend from L.A. sent a large quantity of high quality protein powders that mix with water to make tasty shakes. One shake a day can help kids receive the protein they need to grow strong and avoid the perils of malnutrition. We are thrilled about that! Another dear friend donated 4000 Euros so that we could buy baby formula. Here is the first container of 200, shown after it arrived in Merida:

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Another pair of friends (shown below) donated 11 boxes of clothing, which the abandoned elderly people will make great use of.

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In addition to our original large purchase of children's vitamins and multivitamin protein shakes, we recently bought 100 jars of women's vitamins, to give (along with protein powder) to pregnant women in Venezuela, so that their babies can be born strong and healthy, rather than on the edge of malnutrition.

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Another special piece of grace has been a connection with the good-hearted owner of a shipping company in Florida, who has offered us a discount on shipping our donated items to Venezuela.

The items we send are being received by the leaders of our two teams of volunteers, one in Caracas and one in Merida, who are distributing the items directly to children and others in need. They're doing a fantastic job in very challenging circumstances. Our Caracas team is led by wonderful Clara Shakti, a holistic doctor, shown below holding baby Omar, who is clearly taken with her.

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And here is the core of our team in Merida. On the far right is a nutritionist they work with when visiting children in hospitals.

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This video shows the whole team in Merida preparing a giant pot of soup and arepas (fried cornflour cakes) that they will feed to the poor:


Here one of the Merida team is lovingly serving the soup to an elderly woman:

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And here they are bringing a pot of oatmeal to feed 30 kids in a small school. 

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After eating one serving, this little girl was still hungry and asked for another, and then another, and another! Finally, she is full, and so happy:

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Here is our intrepid team leader in Barquisimeto. She and her crew have done amazing work serving the poor in her area, despite daily blackouts and gasoline shortages.

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Below is our team leader in Yare (right), two hours from Caracas. She is working with many handicapped children and poor families in her area, and frequently does large public feedings.

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As for Tarini Ma and Ram Das, although we're supposedly the founders of the project, we don't feel like we've really done anything. We've just kind of watched in awe as God made it all happen.

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In a more ordinary way of speaking, Tarini Ma is a great communicator with a passion for service and a deep love of people, and she's been the primary motor for making things happen. She's been getting the word out on a daily basis in Spanish through Instagram and Facebook, and is often on the phone into the wee hours, talking to people in Venezuela from our home in India. I've been the primary fundraiser in English, as well as the lowly accountant, making sure we aren't wasting a penny. We've done the purchasing together. And we both try to do a little something in the prayer department, too.

We know that this project is providing just a tiny drop in the ocean of Venezuela's need. We hope to make this an ongoing project that can serve and save many more lives, but the cost of purchasing and shipping all these items to Venezuela is huge. We would very much like to expand this work into new areas of Venezuela, and reach thousands more in need. We know trustworthy people who we could partner with in various locations. The only obstacle to expanding is our financial limitations. If you can help us expand we would be very grateful! Your donations are very much needed and deeply appreciated. 

The video below shows, Yusmary, a 15-year-old mother, giving thanks that her baby, Christian, who had been unable to digest her breast milk, has begun gaining weight after drinking the formula we donated.

Friends, these children are your children. Please donate generously. Thank you and God bless you! 


PS: We prefer to avoid discussions of the political situation in Venezuela, and focus solely on bringing food to those who are hungry and medicine to the sick. Our only interest is in serving whoever is in need, and bringing healing to the whole country to whatever extent we can. But for those who wish to know more about the possible causes of the Venezuelan collapse, this 10-minute video from Al Jazeera may provide a useful overview:

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Organizer

Ram Das Batchelder 
Organizer
Wanaque, NJ
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