“What do you do when the place where you live and is your home is not only full of uncertainty but is an active threat to you and those that you love? You leave,” shares Nery Santaella during her 2022 Gene Dewey Refugee Award acceptance speech hosted by the USA for UNHCR Humanitarian Coalition in New York on September 17.
The Gene Dewey Refugee Award, named in recognition of Arthur “Gene” Dewey, USA for UNHCR co-founder and former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, recognizes an individual who demonstrates visionary leadership and extraordinary dedication to helping people forcibly displaced from their homes.
The 2022 award recognizes Nery Santaella and her tireless work through Voices of Venezuela, a non-profit she founded to help people fleeing Venezuela build self-reliance and integrate more easily into their new communities in Colombia. The organization educates refugees about their rights and combats xenophobia and misinformation.
Recognizing Nery’s work is particularly important because she is a refugee herself. Five years ago, Nery fled violence in Venezuela. On her journey, she noticed that there was a severe lack of credible information for refugees making the trek from Venezuela to Colombia.
Nery founded Voices of Venezuela and quickly became one of the most important and trusted sources of information for people fleeing Venezuela, reaching millions.
“We create educational resources for refugees so they can build decent lives for themselves, but more importantly they can avoid dangers,” says Nery. “Daily, I get to talk to fellow refugees that are part of my community online, and they don’t feel alone anymore,” she continues.
Presenting the award, Gene Dewey emphasized Nery’s commitment to serving refugees and the important example she sets.
“The best solutions for the challenges facing refugees, come from the refugees themselves, they come from the grassroots,” notes Dewey. “The work Nery has done underlines the character of refugees, they don’t want a handout, as much as they want help using their own self-reliance, their own abilities,” continues Dewey. “We all have heroes in our lives…you truly are a hero, Nery, and every refugee in the world can look to you as an example.”
Gene Dewey (right) speaks with Nery Santaella at the 2022 Gene Dewey Award reception
About the Gene Dewey Award:
Nominees should display courage, selflessness, sacrifice and humility in their work on behalf of refugees and others forced to flee their homes. The ideal nominee:
USA for UNHCR accepts nominations for the Gene Dewey Refugee Award on a rolling basis. Nominations can be submitted here.