Together with their father, Félix and Wilneydis seek new opportunities in Ecuador
The children continued their studies and their father was able to improve his recycling business thanks to UNICEF's support.
Wilneydis (11) and her brother Félix (16) decided to accompany their father Wilfredo (53) on his trip to Colombia in search of better opportunities. The decision involved saying goodbye to their mother and their siblings, leaving school and moving away from their friends in Maracaibo, Venezuela. After the separation of their parents, they arrived in Santa Marta, in December 2019, a tourist city located in northern Colombia. But, by the end of 2021, they had to migrate once more due to economic difficulties. Wilfredo had lost his job and thought that there would be more opportunities in Ecuador.
The trip lasted six days and after crossing the trail between Colombia and Ecuador they arrived in Quito. They met the eldest son of the family, Wilfredo José (29) on their way there, who had already arranged accommodation and work. For the children, the new country felt very different. Félix was surprised to see dollars and Wilneydis was shocked by the cold weather. They soon found a house in Tumbaco, located on the outskirts of the capital. They started a new life, like the more than 500,000 Venezuelans established in Ecuador by September 2022, according to data from the Interagency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V).
When they arrived in Ecuador, they contacted HIAS, the implementing partner of UNICEF's Integral Protection Programme (PPI in Spanish) in Ecuador. “We entered the place, they interviewed us and from then onwards we are receiving food deliveries and we feel very happy so far,” says the father.
The program seeks to protect children, adolescents, and their families on the move in Ecuador. The initiative combines cash transfers with psychosocial support.
Alexandra Escobar, Social Policy Officer at UNICEF Ecuador, explains that “the first need of migrant families who arrive in Ecuador is to have an income to support the family. And in the case of school-age children, it is the access to the right to education.”
The siblings attend “Víctor Manuel Peña Herrera” School, located about 10 minutes from their home. “Félix has a score of 10. The teachers are truly proud of him. Regarding 'Meru' (as Wilneydis is called), the teacher has told me that she is doing well, her behavior everywhere is good. All her friends and the English teacher love her very much”, says a smiling father.
A new life plan
On top of financial assistance, the social workers helped the family to design a life plan to settle in the country. Wilfredo, Wilneydis and Félix's life plan had very clear objectives: to have their own home and continue studying. Ten months after arriving in Ecuador, these goals have been met, although there is still a long way to go.
The families receive support during their first year in the country, as “this is a key time for them to change their situation, from arrival until they settle in the host communities,” says Alexandra Escobar, from UNICEF Ecuador.
Since 2020, the programme has provided support to more than 5,700 Venezuelan migrants. Around 60% of them are girls, boys and adolescents. Most families use the assistance to cover rent, food, household expenses and healthcare.
A team that dreams of a better future
The daily routine is always the same. Little “Meru”, as her father calls her, waters the plants while Félix prepares the tools to help his father and Wilfredo cooks “arepas” for breakfast. Everyone helps at home and the children support their father in a venture to make chairs, flowerpots and pet beds from old tires. “I never leave her alone. She is my helper at work, and she says that I am her helper in the kitchen,” jokes Wilfredo.
The idea of making objects from tires came from Félix. When they lived in Colombia, he met a Venezuelan who made crafts with recycled tires. Once in Tumbaco, he began to make his own pots in the shape of owls and toucans.
Wilneidys dreams of becoming a doctor. Félix wants to be a mechanic or a truck driver and Wilfredo longs for a stable future for his family. They are a great team that supports each other at all time. That's why they don't give up. “Being a single parent means getting stronger every day. I feel happy because my children have given me strength.”