April 28, 2023

Roadblocks Don’t Prevent ADRA Colombia from Reaching Out

Response to social emergency sees agency go to extreme lengths to assist people in need.

Daniela Arrieta and Inter-American Division News
An elderly woman receives a bag of food from an ADRA volunteer during an aid response that helped more than 300 families in several municipal towns affected by recent roadblocks. [Photo: ADRA Colombia]

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Colombia, partnered with the West Central Colombian Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, delivered food to assist high-risk populations affected by the social emergency resulting from recent road closures in Bajo Cauca, Antioquia, northern Colombia, in March.

“Both organizations, ADRA Colombia and its regional branch, were in charge of delivering the food,” ADRA Colombia national director Jair Flórez Guzmán said. “We thank God for the communities that contributed to collect[ing] the food delivered in this difficult time.”

ADRA has assisted around 300 families with essential food items such as rice, beans, and oil in the northern municipal towns of Zaragoza, Caucasia, El Bagre, and Segovia, leaders said. It was a difficult delivery due to safety challenges in the area. Miners had been protesting to improve labor conditions, which resulted in roadblocks that prevented thousands in two provinces from getting food, medicine, and fuel, media outlets reported.

Still, ADRA managed to overcome the hurdles to reach hundreds of beneficiaries. “When the roads were closed, we sent money and food through a driver escorted by the police and the army,” Roger González, ADRA coordinator at the West Central Colombian Conference, said. “We surveyed the population to find families facing food shortages, and then chose those most affected,” he explained.

At the same time, González highlighted the support of the Adventist community in Medellín, who moved to assist the population of Bajo Cauca. “We shared about the situation of our brothers and sisters with our Medellín members,” González said, “and they provided money and food. It was such a great blessing that everyone came together.”

Noting how important it is to be ready for emergencies, ADRA has begun working on a project called Plan José, named after the biblical character Joseph. The initiative seeks to have food reserves in each of the churches, following the guidelines of emergency agencies. The idea is that, when difficulties arise, the congregations themselves can contribute to support assistance initiatives, leaders said.

Families who were assisted said they were thankful for the support received, Guzmán explained. “The food delivery initiative was a blessing for them and allowed them to have a respite amid the ordeal they are going through.”

A Program for a Better Quality of Life

Initiatives to provide food security to vulnerable families are making a concrete difference in the lives of those who most need it, ADRA Colombia leaders said.

“I used to want my children to wake up late so I could save a meal,” said Betzabeth Barragán, a mother of three in Medellín who works in recycling trash to support her family. Despite her hard work, Barragán struggles to access adequate food.

Despite her dire need, Barragán carries her work out with dedication and commitment. One of the biggest thrills, she says, is when she finds discarded clothes. “When my children see me arrive back home, the first thing they tell me is, ‘Mom, what did you bring me?’ And if I take out clothes, they get excited because, for them, they are new,” she said.

One day, while working, she received a call from ADRA Colombia. She was informed that she and her family were scheduled to receive food assistance. “I felt very excited, even though I was not sure who was behind the call,” she said.

Barragán said she had a hard time understanding that someone could care about her situation and give her a helping hand amid her need. From that moment on, everything changed.

Thanks to the help Barragán received, her family stopped going to bed hungry. And ADRA’s help did not stop with food. Barragán shared how her children had appointments scheduled with nutritionists. ADRA also provided medical assistance to her whole family, improving their access to health care.

Year-long Initiative

This ADRA initiative is part of the agency’s SASVEN Program, which, from April 2022 to March 2023, has benefited more than 24,000 people in Colombia. According to ADRA figures, 12,715 people have received food assistance in the form of prepared meals in Bucaramanga, while 7,252 people have benefited from first response medical attention in migration corridors in Santander. At the same time, 10,820 beneficiaries have been treated in general medical consultations.

The SASVEN program has proven to be an effective tool to improve the quality of life of Venezuelan and Colombian migrant families, regional leaders said. ADRA’s dedication and commitment to its work has changed reality for many families like Barragán’s, giving them hope and a healthier future.

“If there’s one thing I must thank ADRA for, [it] is that it put an end to a situation where my children and I had nothing to eat,” she said. “ADRA is for me the security I never had, the hope I thought I had lost, and for my children and me, the love that we needed.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.