Latin America has always had large populations of poor and disaffected people, but the crisis in Venezuela has exacerbated what was already a tough situation for many.
The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that over 5.4 million out of a peak population of about 30 million in 2015 have fled the Venezuela, ASCAPS estimates some 1.82 million Venezuelan refugees are currently in Colombia with thousands more arriving everyday.
These refugees may have had jobs or businesses in Venezuela, but because many lack valid passports and the resources to obtain legal status in other countries, they are unable to obtain gainful employment. Instead they beg in the streets or work day labor jobs if they can find one. Some turn to prostitution, drugs and crime to survive.
There are very few refugee camps providing minimal temporary housing as well as food, personal care items, and medical aid in Colombia. Most of the refugees arrive only with what they can carry walking through the mountains. They beg on the streets and highways in order to survive.
Some of the refugees that arrived earlier in Colombia and possess the documentation to obtain foreign residency status (Cédula de Extranjería) may have found a regular job. Doctors, electricians, lawyers, plumbers, teachers, engineers and the like however are unable to work in their profession or trade because their credentials do not transfer to a new country.
Most refugees try to find work in the informal economy as day laborers, cooks and waiters, and domestic servants. Mothers with young children must care for their children however are unable work, so they beg in the streets with their children.
No matter their status, if they do find work, they are often underpaid from the prevailing wages in the country. And some are cheated or abused by their employers.
The vast majority of these refugees are good, decent people caught up in bad situations that are often not of their own making.
Government and non government organizations (NGOs) are doing what they can, but in many cases they are overwhelmed by the shear numbers of refugees. It is even worse now with the COVID-19 pandemic as both the informal and formal economies are in a major recession, and some governments are using it as an excuse to crack down on refugees, a common reaction to blame “outsiders” when there is a crisis.
Our founder was on business in Colombia and visiting family in Peru, and noted the large numbers of refugees in the streets. He asked his friends and family about something like the Little Free Library and Little Free Pantry programs he supports at home, but the consensus was that model was too challenging to attempt under these conditions in this environment.
So he went to a store, purchased a few shopping carts full of food and personal care items. He organized them in boxes and bags for distribution and went out into the streets and gave a box or a bag directly to refugees.
Before he returned to the USA, he recruited friends and family to carry on.
No waiting in lines. No requirement for information or documentation. Just a simple question like “Could you use some food? A toothbrush and toothpaste?” and a box or a bag of food and personal care items right then and there.
Benediction Box International, Inc (BBI)
On his return to the USA, he founded Benediction Box International, Inc (BBI). as a 501(c)3 tax exempt non-profit in order to channel funds to BBI people in South America for the primary purpose of buying food and personal care items to give directly to refugees living in the streets; with the emphasis on feeding families with children.
The formula is very simple – the more people that donate to BBI, the more people we feed and care for right now today.
You may donate via PayPal, which is the least expensive and most efficient way for you to channel funds through BBI to the refugees. You can also sign up with Amazon Smile and designate BBI as the recipient based on your purchases.
Our first efforts have been in Colombia and Peru. Our people are ready to feed hungry refugees, so please join us and help with your donations.
We know we will only make a teeny, tiny dent in a huge problem, but what we can do we will do. We also know every refugee we give food and basic necessities to will make a difference in their individual lives, at least for that moment in time. And it will also give them just a little hope in humanity.