Making Communities Safer in Venezuela

“No one had ever invited us to talk about this topic,” Maria, a mother of three, said. She had just attended one of our knowledge dialogues on preventing sexual abuse and human trafficking. “Thank you for alerting us. I really feel prepared to prevent anything,” Maria affirmed. 

Thanks to you, we can to hold knowledge dialogues to build local capacity in the communities we serve. We held this latest round of talks in Zulia, Venezuela, where you support vulnerable children with a mobile canteen, bringing hot, nutritious lunch five times a week. Holding knowledge dialogues for local community members is an opportunity to invite people who are not direct participants in our programs to be included in our holistic programming.

We addressed sexual violence and trafficking at the community level because human trafficking is increasing in Venezuela. In the first ten months of last year, 1,024 cases of sexual violence against children and adolescents were reported. 

Working with a local partner, we set up two sessions, one for parents and one for kids, offering advice on prevention from a forensic psychologist and different ways to help. The knowledge dialogue for adults focused on raising awareness about the sexual exploitation of children and the care young victims need. During this talk, the psychologist warned parents “…to be very careful because the aggressor does not present himself as a bad person. Rather, he shows himself as a trustworthy and friendly person, both to gain confidence with the child’s environment and then to have total closeness before the child.” That is great advice for any parent.

After attending the knowledge dialogue, Joaquin, a father of two girls, realized, “There’s a lot of danger out there. The conference opened my eyes, and now I know how to protect my girls. Thank you very much for continuing to do this work. It is beautiful.”

The children’s knowledge dialogue combined prevention awareness with music, dance, games, and an illustrated storybook called Together for Prevention. The book is divided into two parts: taking care of our bodies and four tips to prevent sexual abuse. “This topic is very important because many children are victims of sexual abuse and grow up with resentment,” explained the psychologist. “This limits their cognitive and emotional development and shatters their lives, making them prisoners of these bad experiences that interfere in their whole life plan.”

Thanks to our community of peacebuilders, 120 parents, kids, and community members attended our knowledge dialogues, where they had the opportunity to connect and learn, deepening their sense of community belonging.