Putting People First with our Mobile Canteen

The clock reads 3:55 am. Nine-year-old Daniel* swings his legs over the side of the bed, quickly dresses, grabs a cart and some bags, and heads towards the lake. He races the Venezuelan sun, rising just over the horizon. Along Lake Maracaibo’s brackish water’s edge, he scrounges for pieces of iron, copper, or steel.

After searching the lakeshore, Daniel combs the city, rummaging through dumpsters and foraging in the city’s decaying drains for more scrap metal. “In the sewage of the city I can find many things, many pieces of iron. The bad thing is that the water is very stinky, but I make the effort and endure the fatigue while I look for the objects,” explains Daniel. Daniel follows this routine five days a week before he heads off to school.

Roberto hauls his day’s find. Photo by Ronal Labrador.

Like Daniel, Roberto* awakens before dawn, hounded by hunger. Only eight years old, he assumed the “man of the house” role after his father left Venezuela in search of a better life two years ago. Roberto, his three younger siblings, and his mother haven’t heard from him since. Now instead of his childhood being a time for play, Roberto walks several kilometers each morning, looking for scrap metal.

Both boys sell the scrap they find and give the money they earn to their mothers. Finding scrap is the difference between eating once or twice a day, or not all because. “I give all the money to my mom. It makes me feel good that all the work of a week is so that we can all eat at home,” explains Daniel. Roberto overcame his fear of the street in order to help his family. “Before I was afraid but I prefer to go out in fear rather than continue seeing how my mother suffers for not having something to eat for my siblings and me,” says Roberto. 

Roberto and Daniel are all smiles receiving lunch at our canteen. Photo by Ronal Labrador.

You heard about kids like Daniel and Roberto and responded by bringing a mobile canteen into their community. Five days a week, you deliver hot, nutritious meals to Daniel, Roberto, and 43 other children in this community. These lunches are a lifeline in a country where three out of four people live on less than $1.90/day, the international benchmark of extreme poverty. Venezuela’s economic collapse has forced over 7.7 million Venezuelans to leave their communities.

In a country where over one in three children under the age of five are malnourished, your support brings 45 kids better health. They also have the energy they need to learn. “Before I didn’t go to school because I didn’t like to go to school hungry. It made my head hurt. But now I can eat and go to school. Thank you very much for everything,” says Roberto. Daniel concurs. “The food is delicious. We love it. We are really happy,” he says.

Better daily nutrition, the ability to concentrate in school, and families having one less worry are why you continue to show up, putting people first. We couldn’t do this work without our community of peacebuilders–our program officers and staff, our partners on the ground, and you–helping people stay in their communities, bringing them hope. 

*Not their real names.