ADRA Colombia

ADRA helps hundreds of families affected by road blockades in Colombia

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An elderly woman receives a bag of food from an ADRA volunteer during the assistance provided to over three hundred families in several towns affected by road blockades as a result of protests in the northern part of the country since the beginning of March 2023. [Photograph: ADRA Colombia]

April 18, 2023 | ADRA Colombia Press.

In response to the social emergency resulting from recent road blockades in Bajo Cauca, Antioquia, in northern Colombia, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Colombia, in partnership with the Central Western Association, distributed food to assist the affected high-risk populations.

“Both organizations, ADRA Colombia and its regional headquarters, were in charge of food distribution,” said Jair Flórez Guzmán, director of ADRA Colombia. “We thanked God for the communities that collaborated to collect the food distributed in this difficult time.”

ADRA has helped around three hundred families with essential food items such as rice, beans, and oil in the northern municipal towns of Zaragoza, Caucasia, El Bagre, and Segovia, said the leaders. The distribution was very challenging due to security challenges in the area. Miners had been protesting for improvements in working conditions, resulting in road blockades that affected thousands of people in two provinces, preventing them from accessing food, medicine, and fuel, as reported by the media.

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A person smiles while receiving a bag of food from an ADRA Colombia volunteer last month. [Photograph: ADRA Colombia]

Nevertheless, ADRA managed to overcome the difficulties and reach hundreds of beneficiaries. “When the roads were closed, we sent money and food with a driver escorted by the police and the army,” said Roger González, coordinator of ADRA in the Central Western Association. “We conducted a population survey to identify families experiencing food shortages, and then we selected the most affected ones,” he explained.

At the same time, González highlighted the support of the Adventist community in Medellín, who mobilized to help the population in Bajo Cauca. “We informed the church members in Medellín about the situation of our brothers and sisters,” González said, “and they provided us with money and food. It was such a great blessing that everyone came to help,” he said.

Recognizing the importance of being prepared for emergencies, ADRA has started working on a project called Plan José, which aims to have food reserves in each church, following the guidelines of emergency agencies. The idea is that when difficulties arise, the congregations themselves can contribute to support relief efforts, the leaders said.

The assisted families expressed gratitude for the support received, explained Guzmán. “The food distribution initiative was a blessing for them and allowed them to have some relief in the midst of the difficult situation they are going through.”

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Church member volunteers select the food before distributing it in the communities affected by the blocked routes in northern Colombia. [Photograph: ADRA Colombia]

A program for a better quality of life

Initiatives aimed at providing food security to vulnerable families are making a tangible difference in the lives of those who need it most, said leaders from ADRA Colombia.

“I used to wish that my children would wake up late so that I could skip a meal,” said Betzabeth Barragán, a mother of three children in Medellín, who works recycling garbage to support her family. Despite working hard, Barragán finds it difficult to access proper food.

Despite her tremendous need, Barragán carries out her work with dedication and commitment. One of her greatest joys, she says, is when she finds discarded clothing. “When my children see me coming home, the first thing they say is, ‘Mom, what did you bring me?’ And if I bring clothes, they get excited because, to them, they are new,” she said.

One day, while she was working, Barragán received a call from ADRA Colombia. She was informed that she and her family were on a list of people who would receive food assistance. “I got very excited, although I wasn’t sure who was calling,” she recounted.

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ADRA volunteers gather all the food bags to distribute them in communities affected by roadblocks. [Photograph: ADRA Colombia]

Barragán said it was very difficult for her to understand that someone could care about her situation and lend a helping hand in the midst of her need. From that moment on, everything changed.

Thanks to the assistance Barragán received, her family no longer went to bed hungry. And ADRA’s help didn’t end with the food they provided. Barragán shared that her children were scheduled for appointments with nutritionists. ADRA also provided medical assistance to the whole family, improving their access to healthcare.

An ADRA Initiative Throughout a Whole Year

This ADRA initiative is part of the agency’s SASVEN Program, which has benefited over 24,000 people in Colombia from April 2022 to March 2023. According to ADRA’s figures, 12,715 people have received food aid in the form of prepared meals in Bucaramanga, while 7,252 people have been assisted in the migration corridors of Santander, with medical attention as a first response. At the same time, 10,820 beneficiaries have been attended to in general medical consultations.

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Betzabeth Barragán, beneficiary of ADRA Colombia's SASVEN initiative, has been helping thousands of families from Colombia and Venezuela in various northern cities with food bags, meals, and free medical care for months. [Photograph: ADRA Colombia]

The SASVEN program has proven to be an effective tool for improving the quality of life for Venezuelan and Colombian migrant families, regional leaders said. ADRA’s dedication and commitment to their work have changed the reality of many families like Barragán’s, giving them hope and a healthier future.

“If there’s one thing I have to thank ADRA for, it’s that they put an end to a situation where my children and I had nothing to eat,” she said. “ADRA is the security I never had, the hope I thought I had lost, and for my children and me, the love we needed.”