Kids So Hungry They’re Kept Home From School? Change The Story.

“The most important thing is love because without love we are nobody.” A mother said that—the mother of one of the children enrolled in our education and nutrition program in one of the most vulnerable communities in Caracas, Venezuela. We can’t stop thinking about it.

Under normal conditions, raising a child in Venezuela isn’t easy. Imagine doing it amid an economic crisis that has driven 6 million people to leave their country, and where the minimum wage is less than $30/month.

This economic crisis has led many mothers to keep their children home from school. When there is no money to feed them breakfast, or to send them a lunch, many prefer to let their children sleep late than cry from hunger pangs all day. Chronic hunger leads to malnutrition, skipped days of school leads to dropping out, and soon too many children find themselves out of the system entirely.

When we sat down with our local partners to talk through the issues, we knew we had to do something to help change the story for one vulnerable community. 

For these primary school children, dropping out of school because of hunger could have meant the end of their educations. Working with parents, local partners, and neighbors who care, we’re changing the story and getting these children back into school. Photos by Jonathan Lanza.

This is what the numbers look like for this pilot project:

80—the number of children between the ages of 5-11 participating in the program. Each has some degree of malnutrition, and all are excluded from the formal education system (for now!)

2—the number of teachers who have volunteered to help this community for 25 years, without receiving anything in return, so the children in one of the most vulnerable communities in Venezuela could get an education. They face armed gangs, climbing steep mountain roads, and planting and building with their own hands the future of the children of this community.

6—the number of months the children will be in our program, after which they will be able to reintegrate into the formal education system. At that point, they’ll be in an adequate nutritional state and have the opportunity to build a future for themselves.

$1.14—the cost of a nutritious meal provided by our program to the 80 participating children, which will gradually help them recover their nutritional health.

120—the number of tutoring classes the children in the program will receive so they can return to school as soon as possible.

Hot meals, cooked by neighbors who love these students, go a long way to improving the nutritional health of malnourished kids. Photos by Jonathan Lanza.

Helping children is only one component of this program. It was clear to us that we had to change the story not only for children but also for the adults raising them. Every two weeks we organize workshops for the parents and guardians of the children in the program. So many adults have left the country to find work, that millions of children are being raised by a grandparent or neighbor. And everyone here lacks resources. 

The objective of these workshops is simple, yet difficult to achieve: to create a safe space for those raising the children in this community; to express themselves, exchange knowledge about the upbringing of their children, and receive guidance from psychology professionals; and above all to remember that they are not alone in the process of raising these children.

So serious is the emigration crisis in Venezuela, millions of children are raised without the support of parents. They are cared for by grandparents, or neighbors, or other relatives, who have big hearts, but empty pockets. Photo by Jonathan Lanza.

The adults parenting these children are powerhouses, there is no doubt about that! But even the most determined, the ones who work from dawn to dusk to try to provide a future for their children, need to remember that they have a community behind them. And when we see 50 parents and guardians talking, laughing, chatting, and exchanging parenting tips, we know that we are not only working for the children but for the adults and the entire community.

And it’s this–educational classes, nutritious meals, parenting workshops, community, and love–that is what we’re inviting you to be part of. You can help to change the story for vulnerable families in Venezuela, in ways that will last for generations.