Lake Maracaibo: The story of Venezuela's crisis
Published: Oct 1, 2022
I highly recommend this France 24 report on the Venezuela crisis. It provides a devastating glimpse into the staggering hardship faced by Venezuelans.
The 15-minute report focuses on daily life around Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake in Latin America and, traditionally, the source of income (via fishing) for many.
I discovered the video years ago and have watched it multiple times. I was reminded of it recently when it resurfaced in my YouTube feed.
This video, combined with other reports, such as the New York Times’ coverage of women, devoid of options, being effectively forced into prostutition across the border in Columbia, motivated me years ago to come up with a solution whereby Americans could easily – in a frictionless way – help Venezuelans.
I knew how generous Americans are. Most – even at the poverty level – could easily donate $20 (or more) a month, making a huge difference in lives there. I also considered a simple Craigslist-style matching website where a database of addresses could be used for Americans to pick from and “adopt” a family, to send a basic package from Amazon to each month. For example, staples like cooking oil, beans and rice, and even nutritional supplements and over-the-counter basics like Tylenol.
It could start small and local (here in the US), be improved through trial-and-error, and grow from there. The idea was to have no salaries involved (100% volunteer effort) and so therefore, no administrative overhead or donors to an organization. 100% of funds would go direct between two parties: a donating American and the receiving Venezuelan.
Unfortunately, it seemed circa 2018 that all the “doors were barred” for helping out in this way.
- There were serious hurdles to sending US dollars directly to Venezuelans.
- Popular money transfer apps often require a US bank account.
- Shipping food items of any type (even canned and dehydrated), and over-the-counter medicines, is also prohibited.
- The prohibitions seemed to include clothing, toiletries and other basic necessities of life.
As a result I shelved my idea - and accepted that while I would’ve enjoyed immensely creating even a small and expedited solution to the problem, there didn’t seem to be a way forward. It was better (and necessary) to instead donate through an existing organization.
It’s unfortunate that in such a technologically sophisticated world, with the majority of people being compassionate, empathetic, and eager to help, that so many barriers are erected to prevent many safe and efficient forms of direct peer-to-peer humanitarian relief.
And yet we can continue to work to lift those barriers.
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