The literal meaning of “caminante” is walker or wayfarer. But in Venezuela, a caminante is a person so desperate for a better life they will walk for weeks to find it — eating whatever is found, drinking from streams, carrying children too young to walk. They are easy prey for robbers and traffickers.
By the time they reach a border station, they are exhausted and frequently so dehydrated or ill that they need urgent medical attention.
Every caminante has a different story — a different reason for enduring the hardship they experience on these journeys. These are the stories of three Venezuelans who have been forced to flee their homes.
Hipsiamar, 12, and her family had been caminantes for 30 days when this photo was taken. They carried few possessions with them, but Hipsiamar brought her precious notebooks. Every day she wrote about her experiences along the road, including making friends with a small black kitten.
Parents of children like Hipsiamar make extremely difficult decisions when they’re forced to flee. Many children are too young for such a perilous journey, but they often have no other choice.
Angelica, a Venezuelan asylum-seeker in Panama, said the threats to her family were too much to justify remaining in their home. “We didn’t feel safe anymore. We were scared to be in the house and we couldn’t leave the children alone,” she says.
Fear of violence is not the only reason caminantes flee. Eulirio, an indigenous person from Venezuela, fled his ancestral lands when a lack of medicine and care resulted in the death of his infant daughter. “I decided to take my family out of Venezuela before another one of my children died. Diseases were getting stronger than us. I told myself, either we leave or we die."
Since 2014, more than 4 million people have fled the country because of political strife, human rights abuses and lack of economic opportunity. The vast majority of caminantes are finding refuge in neighboring countries.
How you can help…
By becoming a monthly donor, you can help USA for UNHCR provide these desperate travelers with food, water, showers and secure areas for rest and recovery, as well as medical assistance for those who are injured or become ill along the way. Your generosity can provide hope to those fleeing for their lives.