“Speaking in our own language, the community feels trust and understands the message better"
In the San Francisco de Guayo community and the lower Delta Amacuro, more than 40.000 inhabitants of the Warao indigenous community make a living along. UNICEF provides protection, nutrition, health, water, hygiene, sanitation.
In Venezuela, in the north of South America, live various indigenous communities such as the Warao, Wayuú, Yukpa, Pemón, among others, each within a distinct national territory and each with its own language, culture, and history.
In the case of the Warao indigenous people, at greeting time, you say “Yakera”, which means hello but can also mean thank you. In the entire lower Delta Amacuro, where this community lives, UNICEF reaches thousands of families by providing water, hygiene and sanitation, protection, education, nutrition, and health.
To ensure a successful strategy in this highly vulnerable area, one of the key elements has been people such as María Torres, an indigenous Warao UNICEF consultant who can communicate with the community in its own language and respect their culture but also ensure interventions are adapted to the context.
During field missions, not only are programmes monitored and supplies delivered, but sensitization activities also take place with boys, girls, and adolescents on various themes, such as safe water, violence prevention, hygiene and sanitation, and well-being, among others.
“There is a marked difference because you can feel their trust, and they understand the message better. The community members receive information better, with greater interaction and participation, the community participates in all activities and makes their worries known, helping us to do our work better,” María Torres, Warao indigenous consultant, explains.
During a recent mission to San Francisco de Guayo, on the lower Amacuro Delta, UNICEF delivered the first water treatment plant run by solar power to a river community, and several sensitization activities took place, some about water and others about ownership and maintenance of the plant.
“The engagement with boys and girls to teach them how to wash their hands properly, walking along the community where I lived for so long helping to overcome challenges such as where to store water, delivering supplies such as soap, one house at a time, and witnessing the participation of boys and girls are things that fulfill me and, I believe, make a difference in implementation,” explains María Torres.
In other communities and states, such as in the case of the Pemón indigenous community in the state of Bolívar, the used community outreach strategies respect language and culture. Nardi Torres, a teacher and UNICEF Accountability to Affected Populations Officer who belongs to the Pemón community facilitates activities in any community and also facilitates communication and proximity of programmes with her own community.
“Working in contexts of extreme need and vulnerability is hard work that requires persons who are not only qualified but also committed to reaching positive but contextualized results, persons who defend rights but also the culture, who stand for the sustainability of material and environmental resources,” says Nardi Torres UNICEF Accountability to Affected Populations Officer.
“We have to recognize that when opportunities are given to the community, these are appropriated, as we have witnessed with the San Francisco de Guayo Water Plant. Having access to clean water, people came to get it and understood how it will influence the prevention of illness and staying healthy. It is not only the delivery of a project or supplies but a commitment to engage in generating sustainable change,” concludes Nardi Torres.
In San Francisco de Guayo, thanks to the support of persons like Maria and Nardi, access and communication with the community is smooth and sensitive, and the UNICEF team is always received with a Yakera.