The Diocese of Cúcuta in Colombia reported this week that it has provided 1 million meals to Venezuelan migrants affected by the humanitarian crisis in their country.
In a statement released March 18, the diocese thanked the volunteers and donors who since June 5, 2017, have provided support to those affected by the emergency at the Colombian-Venezuelan border.
“As the Holy Father Francis has well reminded us, the Church is like a field hospital where wounded people come seeking the goodness and closeness of God,” Bishop Víctor Manuel Ochoa Cadavid said in the statement.
Since Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen hyperinflation and severe shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities, and millions have emigrated.
Currently, thousands of Venezuelan citizens live on the remittances that relatives send them from abroad. However, only a maximum of 6,000 bolivars a day can be withdrawn from the bank, the equivalent of about $2.00.
Colombia has been a major destination for Venezuelans fleeing their home.
The Diocese of Cúcuta is serving the migrants through the Divine Providence House of Transit in addition to eight parish soup kitchens.
Speaking on RCN Radio March 19, Fr. David Cañas, the coordinator of the Divine Providence House, said that between 3,800 and 4,200 people arrive daily, starting very early, in search of food.
“Previously between 3,000 and 3,500 used to come (…) despite the blockades on the international bridges” that join Colombia and Venezuela, the priest said.
Bishop Ochoa voiced gratitude for “the 800 Catholic volunteers, men and women religious, priests and deacons, donors, coordinated by Fr. José David Caña Pérez, [who] make it possible for the Diocese of Cúcuta to become a prophetic witness of the charity of the Church.”
“The Lord in his infinite goodness blesses the families of Cucuta through the generosity and availability which they have had since the beginning of the border crisis in order to serve their neighbor with love,” he said.
He also thanked the institutions that have donated food, money, and resources to make the program possible: the World Food Program, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Caritas International, Adveniat, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
On March 19, in a meeting with migrants and volunteers at the Divine Providence House, Bishop Ochoa praised the 800 volunteers who have given their time to serve those in need.
“It’s the work of the Catholic Church…it’s the work of the Church for the beloved people of Venezuela… we ask you to pray for the people that help us help others.”