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World Central Kitchen Activates in Colombia and Venezuela

March 2019

As the humanitarian crisis facing the people of Venezuela has become more and more serious, and as more Venezuelans cross the border to Colombia for food and supplies, World Central Kitchen’s Chef Relief Team started scouting to evaluate the need for a feeding operation in the region. Near the end of February, the organization activated a kitchen in the city of Cúcuta, on the border between the two countries. When the team arrived, 40,000 Venezuelans were legally crossing the border every day to gather supplies for their families and communities. Since then, though, many of the legal routes have been shut down, cutting off access to food and leaving many stuck in Colombia, far away from their homes. Nevertheless, thousands of Venezuelans continue to cross at dangerous, unofficial crossings every day.

In response, the WCK team quickly started distributing nutritious bagged lunches to shelters throughout Cúcuta, and soon afterward began to serve hot meals to those in need on the migration route from the border to the Colombian city of Bucaramanga. As the team has seen more and more need throughout the region, they opened a second kitchen in Pamplona, and started to establish and upgrade kitchens in shelters for refugees to prepare meals for their own communities. 30 volunteers, all Venezuelan, have joined the small World Central Kitchen team to feed their compatriots on the long road to Bucaramanga and beyond. The team and volunteers have also trekked to remote areas along the border to deliver meals to families who left their homes in Venezuela in hopes of finding a better life elsewhere.

José and World Central Kitchen Executive Director Nate Mook joined the operation to meet the refugees and to hear stories about their journey across the border. José also ventured into Venezuela to better understand the extent of the humanitarian situation, and to meet with local non-profits and programs like Alimenta La Solidaridad, a project in Caracas that is working to feed children throughout the crisis.

To date, the #ChefsForVenezuela team has served over 100,000 meals, working with dozens of volunteers at 20 different kitchens in the area. The team will stay on the ground as long as there is need – as José likes to say, quoting the writer John Steinbeck, “Wherever there’s a fight for hungry people to eat, we’ll be there.”

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