Leonardo and Luigi, two Venezuelans travelling together to Peru

By Martin Fuentes, CARE Ecuador

Leonardo Alimeña and Luigi Carlos Saavedra, the two 30-year-old Venezuelans, met in San Cristobal, a city near to the border of Venezuela with Colombia. They are both part of a group of eight people, including two women, which was formed when they reached Colombia and decided to continue their journey together to better protect themselves.

Leonardo is coming from the State of Aragua, in the Northern Venezuela. He is married and a father of a 14-year-old boy. He went to school up to the fourth year of high school. "I could not continue studying because in the fourth year I had my son", he said. Leonardo has his own house back in Venezuela, an apartment that the government gave him after the flooding of a river which left 18 families homeless, including his, a few years ago. In Venezuela he used to work in steelworks and welding. Two years ago he bought a "hamburger trailer", aiming for a better income, but "by then, the situation was deteriorating and I couldn’t work and make a profit”. It has been 16 days since he left Venezuela. His wife and son are still there.

Luigi is from Merida. He is also a father of two boys of 6 and 5 years old. His children and their mother are back in Venezuela. He has a bachelor's degree and he used to work as a motorcycle mechanic. He had his own workshop in his house but decided to leave the country for a better life seeking a job opportunity.

Both Leonardo and Luigi left Venezuela with the aim of reaching Peru, but Leonardo is also thinking about going to Chile. Like most Venezuelans, they have information and contacts in Peru that can help them out to re-build their life. But first, they have to survive the difficult trip.


                                                                Photo by Fuentes/CARE

"In the beginning we walked two days without a single stop. In one day alone we walked 43 kilometers. There, I lost the shoes I was wearing. They were ripped apart, so they were no longer useful" said Leonardo. "The pair I am using now is a second pair I found, a used one”, he continued, showing us the torn edges of his shoes.

Luigi jumps in the discussion to share his worse experience during their journey so far. “In the Páramo de La Nevera, in the Norte de Santander, he witnessed the death of a two-year-old girl caused by hypothermia: "When the mother saw he baby girl dying, she started taking off her clothes and she was screaming that she wanted to die there with her girl".

They explain that they managed to keep moving towards Ecuador thanks to generous rides from people who offered to help them. They remember that one time the entire group traveled on a cement plant, making the trip from Pamplona to Cali, in 8 hours. As for food, the only way to have something to eat was the goodwill of people who were also travelling or passing by

Both have been in Ecuador for almost two weeks now. They do have a passport but as many Venezuelans who manage to reach Ecuador, they don’t have enough money to pay for a hotel or to continue their journey to Peru. Luigi keeps saying how important it is for them to find some money: "Whatever can be done to get a job and save some money for the tickets to Peru, I will do it".

After spending several nights sleeping outside, in gardens, between the lanes of an avenue or in a makeshift shelter near the bus terminal of Carcelen, Leonardo and Luigi were taken to a temporary shelter. For now, they are selling candy on the streets and, with whatever they can save from this income, they hope to slowly gather enough money for the tickets.

The candies were given to them in the shelter. There they can also take a shower and sleep protected from the heat or the cold. But they don’t want to go there for food or for clothes. "Look, there's food there all the time, but people are disorganized and that's not how it should be", says Luigi. "In addition, everyone is fighting over the clothes they give away having as a result tearing them apart”.

A couple of days ago a woman donated to the group who stays in that makeshift shelter 45 tickets to Peru. Both Leonardo and Luigi got a ticket but the trip has already been postponed for the second time. "I don’t know how but this is our plan for now, to get to Peru”, said Luigi with determination that showed that he is not going to wait for long before he leaves again.

How You Can Help

CARE established the Venezuela Humanitarian Response Fund to support ongoing fundraising efforts for the crisis.  We seek to raise an additional $4 million to meet the immediate needs of 25,000 people displaced as a result of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Venezuela and its neighboring countries. 

Learn more about our work in Ecuador.