Venezuelan migrants rebuilding lives in Region Seven

Catholic church leads efforts to help migrants settle

Tiffny Rhodius
Affected Population, Migrant Response, Young Children, Migrant Families
Kennyann Bacchus
20 February 2020

Data has shown there is an increasingly high presence of Valenzuela nationals and Guyanese returnees settling in Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supernaam) and Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni). Father Joel Rathna, of the St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Bartica, has been working with United Nations organisations, through the Roman Catholic Church in Georgetown, for nearly two and half years to assist Venezuelans settling in Region Seven.

“Initially, it was the [another UN organisation] through which we were able to reach out to them by giving out sanitary bags and other things; that was the first step forward that’s how we were able to come in touch with them [the migrants],” Father Joel explained.

“Hardly 10 sometimes too... many of the migrants are skipping class for work but those who came it really made a difference.” 

Father Joel
Education, Migrants, Migrant response, catholic Church
Kennyann Bacchus
Father Joel Rathna - Catholic priest from Region Seven

In April, the church was the focal point for the facilitation of the United Nations Children Fund's (UNICEF) Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme. The programme has been running from two months but Father Joel said it is poorly attended. The programme was initially requested by the Venezuelans and while more than 40 of them attended in the beginning, attendance has dropped to around 10 migrants. “Hardly 10 sometimes too,” the Father noted.

Many of the migrants are skipping class for work, Father Joel explained, “But those who came it really made a difference.”

Father Joel still keeps classes every Sunday from 6:00pm to 7:30pm despite the poor turn out. He noted local children and young mothers also benefit from the ECD programme. Eddiecia LaCruz, 25, and her two children are among the migrants benefiting from the ECD class. She admitted it has become difficult to attend now that she is working.

“I try all my best when they doing the course [to go],” she said sheepishly. In March, she found employment with a water refilling business as an assistant. However, her children still attend the ECD course. She boasts it has been especially helpful in teaching her children to speak English. LaCruiz is among the millions of Venezuelans fleeing the crisis in the neighbouring country.

Affected Population, Migrant Response, Young Children, Migrant Families
Kennyann Bacchus
Eddiecia LaCruz - student in the Early Childhood Development class

“Through the crisis the hard time you ain’t getting food, the medicine, nothing you ain’t getting over there.”

Eddiecia LaCruz

“I have a uncle…so he decide to bring we across here [to Bartica]. He said everything would be more easy here,” she shared.

It is still very difficult for her family to adjust to life in Guyana but she remains optimistic, “We does try.” LaCruz, who is of Guyanese heritage, said she learned of her grandmother’s death the day she came to Guyana.

Meanwhile, the catholic church continues to assist Venezuelan migrants resettle in the Region. The church has assisted the migrants with the processing of their immigration documents. “So we collect the documents and then we process to our offices in Georgetown and that is how we have been helping otherwise. Now we are told that even the migration office in Bartica is helping them with the stamping of the paper,” Father Joel said.

The church also hosts a mass in the Spanish language and offers English classes to the migrants