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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
NEWS  |  CAMPUS

Por Venezuela: UF students gather supplies for country in need

<p dir="ltr">Simon Grossman, a 21-year-old UF telecommunication senior, performs “Te Invito”, a song from his upcoming album at Omi’s Tavern during the open-mic night, which was hosted by Vensa. People donated food and medical supplies to send to Venezuela. See the photo story on page nine.</p>

Simon Grossman, a 21-year-old UF telecommunication senior, performs “Te Invito”, a song from his upcoming album at Omi’s Tavern during the open-mic night, which was hosted by Vensa. People donated food and medical supplies to send to Venezuela. See the photo story on page nine.

It was the malnourished people in the streets whom Camila Garcia, 23, remembers when she visited her home country of Venezuela.

Food on the shelves was scarce, with inflation making it difficult to buy, she said. The people were skinnier than she remembered. That was in August.

After visiting her family, the UF economics senior said she came back more determined to help.

“We need to do something about this,” she told the president of Vensa, a student organization that helps incoming students adapt to American culture. “We have so much potential here.”

In response the the crisis in Venezuela, Vensa partnered with other organizations and local businesses to host weeklong events to gather medical supplies, nonperishable food and daily necessities to send to Venezuela. As of press time, the group collected about $1,200 in donations, as well as boxes of food and personal-hygiene products.

From March 2015 to 2016, the price of basic necessities for a family of five has gone up 524 percent, according to the Washington Post. The county has seen high inflation of goods due to a political, economic and humanitarian crisis.

Ignacio Bravo, the president of Vensa, left Venezuela when he was 16. His family moved to Argentina about five years ago, leaving behind the streets they no longer felt safe walking down.

When he lived in Venezuela, Bravo said he remembers only being able to go to school and his home. Anywhere else would have put his life at risk.

But Bravo, now 22, has never forgotten his roots. The UF industrial and systems engineering senior said the campaign is a way for him and the Venezuelan community in Gainesville to help those who still suffer in Venezuela.

“It’s really hard for me to imagine what’s going on,” Bravo said. “And even though I don’t have family there right now, I still feel connected, because that’s the country where I grew up. And there — it was the place I learned my values and the person that I am right now.”

Originally, the organization planned to hold a drive to collect donations, Bravo said, until Allie Jackson, 19, approached the organization about a month ago with the idea to make the campaign bigger.

“I just really wanted people to know how people are suffering in Venezuela,” the UF advertising sophomore said.

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As the advertising director for Restless Heart Communications, an organization within Catholic Gators, Jackson worked with Vensa to create videos of students talking about daily life in Venezuela.

Jackson saw the effects of the country’s turmoil first hand when her 96-year-old great-grandmother moved from Venezuela to Spain, and then to Miami, to live with her daughter: Jackson’s grandmother.

In three weeks, Jackson worked with Vensa to put together events that encourage students to support the country. Vensa partnered with Movimiento Organizado de Venezolanos en el Exterior (MOVE), a nonprofit organization which send necessities to people in Venezuela.

Janeth Avilés, the vice president of MOVE New York, said the situation in Venezuela is a humanitarian crisis.

“People are dying of hunger,” she said in Spanish. “There is no food, there is no medicine.”

Avilés, who has been working with UF student organizations, said she works with 29 organizations in Venezuela to spread out supplies.

She said she’s grateful for students’ help, who, despite leaving the country, show the citizens of Venezuela they’re not alone.

“That is good in the eyes of God, because you do it with your heart,” she said in Spanish.

“Eso es bueno en los ojos de Dios, porque se hace con el corazón.”

She said the organization tracks where donations go. It can be difficult to get goods across the country’s border to Venezuelans in need, but Avilés said it’s important to help.

“We are going to help them,” she said.

“Los vamos ayudar,” she said. “We’re not leaving them alone.”

Simon Grossman, a 21-year-old UF telecommunication senior, performs “Te Invito”, a song from his upcoming album at Omi’s Tavern during the open-mic night, which was hosted by Vensa. People donated food and medical supplies to send to Venezuela. See the photo story on page nine.

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