Notes from a Field Officer: Starting by Gathering in a House of Peace

Zulia Region, Venezuela

Everyone told us that it was impossible to implement a jobs program in Venezuela. That didn’t stop us.

When I arrived in the Zulia Region of Venezuela in September 2021, I was eager to start our Jobs Creation program as soon as we could. Our whole Venezuela team wanted to go deeper into those communities where we were already providing food aid and medical care, to start creating long-term change.  

The reality was very challenging. The economic and humanitarian crisis that has crushed Venezuela for more than 10 years made these communities lose hope. They stopped having dreams for their futures. And the logistical challenges that come with working and living in Venezuela are real. The lack of basic services, a failed economic system, high levels of emigration, and the resulting loneliness of those left behind has created a general mood of desperation, boredom, and sadness here.

In this context, we had to find new ways and means that would allow us to start small businesses here successfully. 

First, we observed. We listened, we talked and we read. We soon realized that the key to impact would be ongoing observation and listening, and adaptability.

Offering surveys kept confidential, allows women to feel more comfortable sharing their hopes and dreams. Photo by Emmanuel Sevilla/Preemptive Love Coalition.

Our Relief team (who take care of food distributions and health care solutions) introduced me to ‘Casa de Paz’ or ‘House of Peace.’ This special community is mostly made up of women—the majority single mothers and elderly ladies. In a meeting with their pastor, we came to the conclusion that the best way to reach the community quickly and efficiently was through a gathering.

A group of 20 women gathered, from all backgrounds and of all ages. They told me their stories, their lives and struggles, and they shared their dreams. For two hours they shared with me how their community has diminished in recent years, since their young people don’t have employment opportunities, they decide to leave as migrants to uncertain destinations. They shared how they spend their days, what needs their neighborhood has, what is easily accessible and what is impossible to obtain. 

They told me who they are—alone and without opportunities.

Surveys are just one segment of the listening process, on the path to starting businesses. Photo by Emmanuel Sevilla/Preemptive Love Coalition.

I listened and took notes. I talked with them and collected their stories in confidential surveys. We laughed, we cried, and we said goodbye, promising to return with a word of encouragement. Clearly, this was not easy.  

As a human being and most of all, as a Venezuelan, I would like to bring opportunity for each and every one of them. To do that, I had to put myself into action and start. 

The first group of women was chosen to visit the following week. I went to their homes, met their families, collected information and we started this journey together.

Don’t be fooled—this is what a gathering of Venezuelan business owners (and business hopefuls) looks like. Photo by Emmanuel Sevilla/Preemptive Love Coalition.

The first seven women are enrolled in our program. They are motivated to start their businesses. Their imaginations have woken up; their hopes and dreams are renovated, they remember their talents, knowledge, and skills. Now they see the possibility to help their families and to help their community return to what it was in its best days. 

Step-by-step, we are not just helping these women and their families, we are also planting the seed of hope for the brightest future in the whole “House of Peace” community.