Since its inception in 1996, AID FOR AIDS (AFA) has been characterized by having an innovative and inclusive vision, developing scalable solutions to complex social problems. What began 25 years ago as a medicine redistribution program, now has turned into two international organizations with 8 offices combined around the world and more than 7 programs that serve the most vulnerable communities in education and HIV prevention, access to treatment , food security and comprehensive health services.
When talking about innovation, it is possible to highlight two important elements, which are ingrained in AFA’s DNA: the waterfall effect and sustainability. The Medicine Recycling program demonstrated the relevance of counting on the support of a strong community network and its effectiveness in scaling results within the most vulnerable sectors. Now, AFA has extrapolated those learnings to one of the deepest humanitarian crises in the world today: the complex humanitarian emergency in Venezuela and the massive migration of Venezuelans in Latin America.
This is how AFA and its office in Colombia reached Fundación Venezolanos in Cúcuta (Fuvecuc), having identified in them an ally with solid bases of experience and deep knowledge of the conflict and its affected population: Venezuelan migrants; as well as full compatibility in terms of mission, vision and values. This alliance with Funvecuc represents a strategic step to ensure AFA’s greater reach and increase the organization’s response capacity in the region.
Together, AFA and Funvecuc have been diagnosing and supporting Venezuelan migrants at the border, especially the so-called “Caminantes”: Venezuelan refugees who walk thousands of miles from Venezuela to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and other countries. Most recently, AFA’s president Jesus Aguais, AFA Colombia’s team and Funvecuc visited two of the most frequented routes by “caminantes”: the first being from Cúcuta to Pamplona, ??and the second the Páramo de Berlin. During his visit, Jesús had the opportunity to accompany and learn first-hand about the challenges and needs of migrants and refugees in the region.
These visits also confirmed the large number of Venezuelan refugees who are a key population for AFA’s prevention programs, many of them practicing sex work as the sole means of survival. These transformative experiences for the organization and its team have also highlighted the importance of life skills and empowerment tools, another one of AFA’s programmatic pillars, and their potential to generate real changes not only within the lives of these migrants, but also in their environment.
During the field visits, the team managed to identify some 80 irregular migrants, including a 13-year-old girl who, thanks to the team’s methodology, developed the confidence to denounce that she was part of a human trafficking network. With the help of the Colombian National Police, it was possible to rescue 2 more girls, also victims of the same network. This experience serves as a reflection of the potential of the waterfall effect. Days later and in coordination with the Colombian National Police, said human trafficking network was dismantled, rescuing 23 girls in total.
This experience is a concrete example of how, with a global vision, AFA acts at the local level and collects the testimonies, opinions and clear needs of the most vulnerable populations, as well as their suggestions on the actions required to generate effective, lasting social impact. AFA is committed to rescuing the dignity of the Venezuelan refugees, through its comprehensive programs that help develop reflective and critical thinking, working with basic life skills. Challenges of this magnitude can best be tackled when everyone gets involved!