Help Us Escape Venezuela Alive..
Joel and Anderson are two intelligent, genuine, warm, open and generous guys in their 20s, who currently exist in a very surreal situation in their home country of Venezuela. I've spent two months travelling and living in Venezuela this year, and have personally experienced the fear, anxiety, stress and depravity that people here have come to accept as 'normal', yet it is far from 'normal'.
Existing in Venezuela, people wake up each day knowing that it really may be their last. Joel and Anderson have been held up and robbed by thieves armed with knives and guns, on a number of different occasions each. It is considered 'normal' to be robbed in Venezuela, and if you're not killed, you're simply considered lucky. After two guys with large knives attempted to rob me, I realised no one is particularly interested in hearing other people's stories, because they are already swamped by too many of their own traumatic experiences.
The increasingly harsh reality of what most regular Venezuelans (ie. non Government related individuals) survive, is so far outside my first world comfort bubble that it shook me to my core. I've set up this account to raise the money urgently needed to hep Joel and Anderson escape the chaos in Venezuela. They need to get passports, and apply for visas and buy flights, in order to set themselves up for a new life in Australia.
With a monthly income the equivalent of $15 USD, paid in the ever decreasing value of local Bolivars, Joel and Anderson have no hope of saving money – their income is wholly consumed each month paying their rent and buying what little food is available to them – they, like many others in Venezuela, are barely able to survive.
Joel and Anderson's existence is similar to many others in the country, however a few points set them apart:
* They are my good friends and I cannot leave them without hope;
* They have made the difficult decision to leave their homeland in search of a safer, better life in Australia; and
* Given the opportunity of life outside Venezuela, they have the ability to contribute back to society in many ways. Joel was an ambassador for the United Nations at a number of International Conferences, and is a University Graduate in Modern Languages. Anderson is mid way through his Biology degree but currently not able to continue his studies, because the State run University is closed due to economic and political issues.
With a Government controlled currency that decreases in value daily, no access to Government controlled US Dollars (necessary to purchase flights), and without access to Western Union Money Transfers or even basic PayPal accounts, Joel and Anderson are severely restricted in their options to escape the depressing situation.
So little information about the situation in Venezuela is available to the outside world. I have written some blog posts on my website to better explain the absurd food, product and service restrictions, the horrendous rates of crime , and some stories of survival of armed robberies if you're interested in learning more.
Together with your help we can make an impact, create change, and give these two wonderful guys the chance of a decent life. A life without fear of being robbed or killed each day, a life of choice for what food and products they consume, and an opportunity to give back to the community. I am deeply concerned that if they do not leave Venezuela by the end of 2015, they will never have another chance, and I already fear for their health, safety and well being. Joel and Anderson are my friends, and I can't help them alone. I need your help to help them.
Every donation will be used to help Joel and Anderson survive the immediate days and weeks in Venezuela, with the main aim of escaping the country, and setting up their new life in Australia. Any extra money received will be used to help other Venezuelans who also want the chance of a new life.
Thank you in advance for your kind and generous donations. Every dollar counts and is worth much more than you might imagine:
$2 USD = one meal in a restaurant
$5 USD = one month's rent for Joel and Anderson
$8 USD = one month of food products (if available)
$10 USD = the minimum wage in Venezuela (1 month)
$15 USD = an electric stove top or a pair of jeans
$20 USD = a pair of shoes or an electric fan
$50 USD = a simple mobile phone
More than $50 USD = more than we can imagine..
**These prices are current as of the end of August 2015 - the inflation rate in Venezuela means the dollar value increases daily, while the local currency of Bolivars decreases daily. People are earning less each day, yet paying more simply to exist.
People in Venezuela wait in line all day with the hope of buying a small allocation of government subsidised and heavily regulated and restricted essential items like milk, sugar, flour, rice, pasta, soap, shampoo and toilet paper. Many other basic items are too expensive for regular people to buy - if they are even available for purchase..
People wait in line for hours to withdraw money from the bank - and hope the bank still has notes available when it's their turn..
Another line of people stretching around the corner and down to the level below, waiting all day to buy basic mobile phones. From the number of robberies that occur in Venezuela, I'm not surprised all these people need new phones.
Venezuelans are restricted to buying regulated products (the essentials that are controlled by the Govenrment, and are almost impossible to find) on the day of the week that corresponds with the final number on their National ID card
Shelves are not 'allowed' to remain empty, so they are stocked full of the only available products - in this case, it was baby wipes..
And here the shelves were stocked with tomato sauce (ketchup) - yet in other cities, this was a regulated product. I took these photos before I knew I could have my phone confiscated for doing so - that's how heavy the restrictions on information are in Venezuela today.
Petare slum, as seen from an apartment window across the highway. Petare is said to be one of the largest and most dangerous slum housing areas in South America, housing almost 500,000 people in Caracas, the second most violent city in the world with 134.36 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2013
With an estimated 24,980 homicides, or 68 murders each day, Venezuela was ranked the second most dangerous country in the world in 2014.
If you would like more information about the current situation in Venezuela please leave a comment below and we will reply ASAP.
*All photographs above were taken by Belinda in Venezuela between May and July 2015.
The thieves stopped him and his girlfriend as they walked home through residential streets at 7pm. Demanding their money, phones and jewellery, neither victim had a chance to respond before one thief shot the guy at point blank range, as his girlfriend stood next to him. Escaping on their motorbikes, the thieves left the girlfriend and her now dead boyfriend just meters from her house.
A few years ago, these horrors didn't occur in our city, they were confined to the capital city of Caracas. Now, as everybody in the country becomes more and more desperate for food and money, these incidents are rapidly escalating in frequency and intensity, and they are happening right on our doorsteps. As the December 6 elections loom near, we are becoming increasingly fearful for our own safety.
In the midst of all this, our Australian visa applications were refused. The reasons stated for refusal were a lack of funds to support ourselves, and the officials not understanding that Belinda, who we have known for only five months (albeit an intense five months), was willing to help us as as much as she has.
Devastated, but knowing we still need to escape Venezuela while we can, we considered our alternatives. After much discussion and research, we decided to use the campaign money to buy flights to South Korea! It's a decision based on how many other refugees are currently requesting entry, the levels of spoken English in the country, the stability of the economy, the openness to foreigners and availability of visas, and the proximity to Australia.
We will attempt to leave Venezuela via the supposedly closed land border at Cúcuta, Colombia on November 20. It's the same route Belinda took to get out, so we are hopeful it works for us as well. Then we will stay with friends for a few days before flying to Spain and then Korea. Visas to the USA, even just for a transit through the airports, are almost impossible for Venezuelans without money, so we have to fly via Europe.
So thanks to your donations, we will be able to escape what is happening here in Venezuela before it gets even worse, and we will attempt to create new lives outside. Ideally we still want to get to Australia, however our first steps now will be to cope with the reality and stressors we endured in Venezuela as we learn what more 'normal' countries and lives are like. Then we need to find ways to support ourselves and we will be happy!
Thanks again for all your support!
Joel and Anderson
Please share this information with all your friends and family, and ask them to spare a few dollars where they can. It would be the best Christmas present EVER to have the money for both of us to fly to our dream country!
Thank you once again!
From Joel and Anderson :-)
Joel tells what happened:
"Today Friday September 4th 2015, we took the bus at 2pm from San Cristobal’s bus station to Merida, Venezuela.
The trip was going as expected and before a place called ‘’El Faro’’, two guys who were inside the bus and, who we saw had paid the ticket and everything, raised from their seats and took two guns out of their bags while screaming: “THIS IS AN ASSAULT!’’.
Immediately the fear spread between all the passengers while the two guys demanded jewelry, watches, money, cell phones and others valuable objects.
Some people tried to hide their cell phones or money inside their clothes or purses, to avoid losing all their belongings. One guy was hit because the robbers saw him try to hide money, and one girl was directly threatened because she tried to hide her cell phone.
Pitifully they took my phone (although they allowed me to take the sim card out first..) and Anderson was very smart and hid his phone in his shoe without being seen, although he was scared he might break the screen (which didn't happen thankfully).
Then these guys, between more screams and threats, instructed the bus driver to a specific place for them to get off the bus, after they took all the driver's money too.
All the passengers agreed to go to the first National Guard station, where we were interrogated about what happened, and they they simply said “We can’t do anything, and at least you’re alive. Just go home.”
Later on we stopped at another station, and they told us the same thing, and so on and so on in every check point where we stopped along the road.
Finally we are at home, on one piece physically, although we are shaken and once again afraid for our lives. And, this experience shows that we can’t trust in the security armed forces, nor the police, or anyone - all of them are USELESS, and do not protect us at all.
I won’t have a phone for a while, but I will tell you when a customer agrees to buy my kidney so I can afford to buy another one.. I am joking but in all seriousness, without your help I will need to spend almost 10 months wages just to buy a basic second hand smart phone here. "
Please share this information to tell people what is happening every day here in Venezuela - and so you know how bad it is, and why we thank you again for your donation to help us get out as soon as possible - while we're still alive!
Oh sorry about the previous comment, I just realized this post is really old. What happened?
Hello If you don't mind me suggesting a couple of things, I live in Argentina and know quite a few Venezuelans who have escaped here. One thing that may help: bitcoin is being used a lot in Venezuela to get around currency controls. Secondly, Argentina may be a better choice than Australia. Australia is so far away, expensive and there is growing resentment towards Venezuelans there. I think it's worth considering if they can make it there. Argentina, by comparison, is easy peasy because the cost of living is much lower and Uni is free. If you'd like to get in contact with me, feel free. Saludos!