ADRA Regional Bahia team receiving some refugees [Photo Courtesy of the South American Division]

General Conference

ADRA Supports More than 60,000 Refugees Who Arrived in Brazil

In Salvador, Bahia, alone, ADRA served about 80 families, totaling more than 300 Venezuelan refugees

Brazil | Pollyanna Trindade

In recent years, Venezuela has experienced the largest emigration in history between two nations. Fearful and insecure people were forced to leave their homes because of wars, armed conflicts, and persecution. Exiled, they went in search of reception and shelter in Brazilian lands as an opportunity to start over.

World Refugee Day (June 20) recalls the hope and opportunity coming through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to the more than 80 million people forced to flee their homes around the world. Of these, about 60,000 were supported by some ADRA projects.

To assist ADRA Brazil in the distribution of these refugees, ADRA Regional Bahia brought about 80 families to the Bahian capital, Salvador, with job opportunities to rebuild their lives. In addition to providing the rent, it trained around 300 people and connected them to different companies to work and support their families.

The municipality of Lauro de Freitas, in the metropolitan region of Salvador, where the regional headquarters of the humanitarian agency in Bahia is located, stood out as a destination for Venezuelan refugees through the Internalization Strategy of the Federal Government, in partnership with civil organizations, the UN, and the private sector. 

According to the municipal government, through the Municipal Secretariat for Affirmative Policies, 80 percent of the people who fit the profile arrived in Lauro de Freitas through the program. More than half of these people were supported by ADRA through the SWAN (Settlement, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Refugees and Migrants) project, an ADRA initiative in partnership with USAID/OFDA

Transformed and Renewed Lives

For the Venezuelan couple Andrés Solorzano and Adriana Márquez, hopes were more than renewed by ADRA employees in Salvador, through the UAI—Institutional Shelter Units for homeless people.

“We were in Roraima; I didn't have enough money for transportation, food, shelter. I didn't know anything; I didn't know where to call; it was a bit of a critical situation for me and my wife. We didn't speak the Brazilian language, until we heard about ADRA, which was interviewing Venezuelan people especially for other states in Brazil to help,” says Andrés.

After being hired, the couple settled in Salvador. As time went by, and with the help of co-workers and the sheltered people who attended the shelter, they began to learn the Portuguese language. “The opportunity to be part of ADRA and work in a shelter helping homeless people helped me to learn to speak Portuguese more and to develop some other skills. Being able to take care of the sheltered by giving them guidance was very good,” he recalls.

Andrés works as a counselor, and his wife, as a cook, at UAI. The couple confesses they are very grateful for the treatment received by ADRA and welcoming them as refugees. “Each time I remember how great they were with me, very kind, affectionate, respectful, I appreciate the opportunity to start over here in Brazil through ADRA,” Andrés mentioned.

In addition to achieving financial stability, a lovely surprise graced the couple. The first Brazilian in the family, little Andrews Daniel Yeguez Zambrano, came to strengthen their gratitude for a new beginning. “Gratitude to God and ADRA, know that you can count on me, that I will never disappoint and I will do everything possible to help people as we were embraced,” Andrés reports, emotional.

ADRA Bahia's Action for Refugees

In June 2019, ADRA, in partnership with the US agency for international humanitarian affairs, USAID/OFDA, implemented the SWAN project to assist in the distribution of these refugees. Paulo Lopes, ADRA director for South America, said ADRA's role in Salvador in welcoming these foreigners was fundamental.

Projects like this present several difficulties that need to be worked on to ease the suffering of families, and that's why this is a date we cannot consider commemorative, shared Leonardo Mendes, regional director of ADRA Bahia.

“It's a date when we allude to an audience that suffers from family abandonment, work, abandonment of the territory where they lived until then, to cross borders. This causes drastic changes in the lives of everyone involved who are refugees—men and women who renounce everything in search of a better life,” Mendes reports. 

Mendes says ADRA Regional Bahia had the opportunity to welcome these families who came to the state of Bahia. The logistics that were set up to receive them is the result of partnerships ADRA makes with institutions such as UNICEF ​​and the American Consulate, which are non-governmental organizations that help with resources.

“We were happy in this process of introducing them both in the territory and in the job market. Today, many of them still maintain their first bond, and we can see how grateful they are for this support. For this to happen, we also had the opportunity and privilege of having a large network of supporters in this process and we praise God for this privilege—for this opportunity to be able to reach out to these people,” Mendes says.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s news site