World Refugee Day, commemorated on June 20, is an opportunity to honor the courage, resilience, and strength of all women, men, and children forced from their homes by war, armed conflict, and persecution. This date has a special meaning for the Adventist Development Relief Agency or ADRA, the Adventist humanitarian agency, as it represents an opportunity to bring justice, compassion, and love to the more than 80 million people who have been forced to flee their homes around the world.
Homelessness and access to the labor market are the main challenges currently faced by refugees and asylum seekers living in Brazil. In relation to work, the main problems pointed out by this group are difficulty in finding a job, low wages, lack of professional qualifications, informal work (without a formal contract), delays in issuing documents, among other factors. Having detected these needs, ADRA in Brazil developed projects to benefit refugees and help alleviate these issues.
“In addition to responding to emergencies, we also have ongoing human development projects. Part of these projects works directly with refugees. From January 2020 to May 2021, ADRA assisted 60,112 refugees through four specific development projects for this population,” reported Fábio Salles, leader of ADRA Brazil.
Venezuelan Esther Govia, who currently lives in Porto Alegre, in the Rio Grande do Sul, experienced the result of the crisis scenario that runs through political, economic, and social issues in Brazil's neighboring country. With difficulties working, Esther, her husband, and their son crossed the Venezuelan border in search of a new life in Brazilian lands.
The family arrived in November 2019 and, shortly thereafter, began to feel the effects of Covid-19. “It was complicated to get a job. There was no one to take care of my son. Only my husband [was working]. The financial issue was difficult. We only had the basics... and some important items started to be lacking”, says Esther.
When the situation began to deteriorate, Esther's family found out about the Connect Brazil project, promoted by ADRA, which provided Esther with solutions to most of her problems. The project, which is still ongoing, has a partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United States Agency for Development (USAID), and allows for partnerships with companies, support for the development of curricula, and courses offering professional qualifications and much more.
“When I met ADRA, I knew they had two projects: one for entrepreneurship and the other to help [people] find a job,” adds Esther, who chose the path of entrepreneurship. That's when she started her cooking classes.
The Venezuelan confesses that she didn't have the skills to work in the kitchen, but through the techniques she learned in the course, she developed a taste for the profession and acquired new skills. “With that, I set up my company, I learned how to make cakes and sweets. This course had a huge impact on my family's life. In the beginning, we even got the ingredients. I didn't spend anything and started to see the profit. That encouraged me a lot and helped to meet our needs”, she celebrates.
In addition to having covered the financial problems, the new baker emphasizes that her emotional side also felt the benefits of the enterprise. “I'm an active person and it was a blessing, a satisfaction to be able to create something with my hands. I felt useful”, she reports.
ADRA on behalf of refugees
Started in August 2020 in the Rio Grande do Sul, the Connect Brazil initiative has helped hundreds of families. Through May 2021, the project intermediated the formal hiring of more than 600 immigrants, in addition to contributing to the training of 60 individual micro-entrepreneurs.
In Manaus, the Center for Support and Reference to Refugees and Migrants (CARE) has been in operation since 2020 and has already served around 15,000 people. Services are offered at the site, such as qualified listening, referrals to a network of assistance services, donations and financial support for cases of extreme vulnerability, help with documentation, Portuguese language courses, and professional training, among others.
The ANA (Acciones Alimentares y No Alimentares) project, which takes place in Roraima and Manaus, helped more than 30,000 people, including immigrants, refugees, and host populations, by providing vouchers for the purchase of food, hygiene kits, kitchen utensils, and home utilities.
In addition to these, the SWAN (Settlement, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Refugees and Migrants) initiative was also carried out throughout Brazil, an ADRA initiative in partnership with USAID /OFDA that served around 14,000 Venezuelans in 2020. In addition to supporting the national interiorization strategy, initial support of three months is offered, which includes rent payment, cell phone credits, hygiene kits, kitchen, food, and more. Click here to learn more about projects and to contribute.
This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site