Soy Satura Project
Feeding the Venezuelan Children in Colombia
In the wake of political turmoil in Venezuela that has left the Venezuelan people in extreme need of basic living resources, the neighboring country of Colombia has received a mass influx of desperate Venezuelans in search of work, food, and health care. National efforts to assist the heavily-impacted communities are underway, but as with any crisis of this degree, the need continues to loom large. Mercy, Inc.’s most recent work lies in the very heart of this emergency. Mercy team members Travis Hamilton and Doug Hoffman have been working in the city of Cucuta, Colombia, a major crossing area for the Venezuelan people. In January of 2019, Mercy, Inc. teamed with Satura Colombia, a part of One Mission Society, to begin addressing one of the major ramifications of the food shortage: Venezuelan children not receiving sufficient nutrition during the school day in Colombia.
In January of 2019, Mercy, Inc. teamed with Satura Colombia, a part of One Mission Society, to begin addressing one of the major ramifications of the food shortage: Venezuelan children not receiving sufficient nutrition during the school day in Colombia.
The Venezuelan school system has been hit hard by the nation’s political and economic turmoil. Several schools are without electricity or running water. Extreme inflation has led to teachers leaving to work in other countries. This has led a continually increasing number of Venezuelan families near the Colombian border to pursue options for their children’s education in Colombia. Given the significant financial and administrative burden this places on Colombian schools and the government as a whole, it is no surprise that difficulty abounds in providing for all of the incoming students’ needs.
These circumstances prompted Colombia’s leader, Juan Guillermo Cardona Cano, to launch the Soy Satura project. Its objective is to provide a soy-based nutritional supplement for children between the ages of 5-12 years who are either with nutritional deficiency or at risk of malnutrition.
In a joint effort to carry out Soy Satura, Mercy and Satura Colombia rented a house near the Venezuelan border that has served as a food factory. Here, an all-Venezuelan team of four workers, Angela Sánchez, Yasmin García, Martha Leal, and Orlando Maldonado, work diligently to process soybeans and hydrate and extract the dough and soy milk to prepare snacks for the children in a nearby Colombian school. This process is highly labor intensive, as it is completed entirely by hand. These workers walk daily across the border, often leaving home at 4:00 AM and taking anywhere from thirty to ninety minutes to reach the food factory house. Currently, they have the means to provide a protein-rich, soy-based baked pastry and a soy and fruit beverage to 200 children at the school, Monday through Friday, for 15 cents a meal. Considering that the 15 cents includes the raw material, packaging, worker salaries, and the house utilities and lease, this is a highly efficient process, costing a mere $3000 per month.
The Venezuelan community is already experiencing the benefits of this project’s implementation. Doug and Travis had the privilege of hearing firsthand from 50 Venezuelan mothers and 75 children about how the program has brought significant positive change to their lives. Receiving midday nourishment at school, the children are more attentive and eager to go to school, resulting in greater learning and desire to engage in normal childhood activities.
What’s more, the previously malnourished children are gaining weight. In January, a nurse who does a regular evaluation of the children to document height, weight and overall health, found that 20% of 150 evaluated children were malnourished. Now, the nurse says these children are doing very well; they have gained healthy weight and are no longer malnourished. The soy-based snacks seem to be providing the kind of nourishment the children need, as Doug and Travis observed no overweight children during their visit.
Venezuelan mothers are genuinely appreciative of all that the program has done to change the lives of their families. Facing the daily difficulties of walking with their children to the border, where there are often issues with the crossing process, the mothers are relieved to have the burden of their children’s undernourishment lifted in this significant way.
In an effort to encompass the breadth of Mercy’s mission, the Soy Satura team is also working to provide a variety of training to the Venezuelan mothers. They have been receiving training in sewing skills to create pillows, backpacks, and pencil cases. Mothers are also receiving training in Bridge to Reading, which teaches them how to be trained and to be trainers. Furthermore, they are engaging in discipleship training to bring them to be disciple makers for Christ
Immediate Need to Expand
Unfortunately, despite the positive efforts of all involved in Soy Satura, there remain hundreds of children in the area who are not receiving this midday nourishment. The current facility and staff could feed more children and are working with the local government to see if it is possible. It has been determined that having a bread dough kneader would allow the Soy Satura team to double their reach, feeding 400 children in the area. Of course, this increased output would also require more raw material, meaning that $4000 per month (50 cents per child per day) would be spent on raw material, worker salaries, house lease/utilities and supplies.
The most immediate need is $2500 to purchase a bread dough kneader in order to extend the reach of the Soy Satura team’s food distribution ministry. Beyond this, Mercy, Inc. is looking to raise another $47,500 ($50,000 total) by the end of 2019 in order to fund the Soy Satura project for the entirety of 2020. Given the ongoing nature of the Venezuelan political crisis, the trend of Venezuelans coming to Colombia for work, school, food, and other resources is only expected to increase. With rising numbers of students in need, it is no question that the affected Venezuelan families will continue in their gratitude should the project be able to expand.
Could you help feed these children and give them the opportunity to learn and empower themselves to transform their community? Donate today through Mercy, Inc., project Soy Satura (#803901).