This Colombian woman shelters 150 Venezuelans every day

When Maria del Pilar Figueroa saw fleeing Venezuelans passing by her home in Colombia on foot, she had to do something.

Every day, the economic and political crisis in Venezuela forces hundreds to abandon their homeland. The most common destination is Colombia due to the proximity and the size of its shared border with Venezuela. 

Many refugees, about 1.5 million, have chosen to remain in Colombia, but others have continued on to Ecuador, Peru, Chile or Mexico. As the crisis has worsened, most refugees leaving Venezuela today do not have enough money for a bus ticket and are forced to travel on foot.

To get from Cucuta to the next nearest town, these “caminates”, or “walkers” must travel 195km, climb mountains 3,200 metres above sea level and then back down. Various NGOs and Colombians living in the region have set up camps to help the desperate Venezuelans endure the harsh conditions and freezing temperatures during the journey.

Maria del Pilar Figueroa lives at the most difficult point along the route, in La Laguna, Paramo de Berlin. After she witnessed the procession of Venezuelans passing by her home, she decided to open up her home as a refuge. Now, she’s running a shelter. Along with her two children, Maria dedicates her life to helping the refugees fleeing her neighbouring country. Their lives have changed completely, as have those of the Venezuelans they have met.

There are now nearly 3.5 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants worldwide, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR).


Alejandro Bernal Rueda 


Sofia Villamil


HyoJin Park

Alejandro Bernal Rueda

Production Company:

Tropico Media 

Source: Al Jazeera