“Never Doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever had—“ -Margaret Mead
- Photo by Ruben Salgado
I saw an article a while back in National Geographic photos showing how solar lights are helping marginalized communities in Africa and India, the photos were beautiful and told a compelling story of the life of the people working and living in regions where they make a few dollars a day, but using solar lights to survive and perhaps even thrive. I reached out to the photographer, Ruben Salgado, and to my surprise he replied. Ruben was in Columbia on another shoot and I asked him if he would shoot some solar portraits of how our Solights were helping the immigrants leaving Venezuela after the government Blackouts there. Here is one story of a woman who opened her house to 50-60 women and children every night, families who were walking for miles a day to reach freedom and opportunities for surviving the inhuman conditions of their homeland. Martha is a light warrior, by fighting with her mind and heart, for strangers in the dark. We were fortunate to be able to help her through Operation Blessing and the lens of Ruben the passionate photographer of Solar Portraits.
Venezuelan immigrants seek rest in the home of Martha Duque (56, not pictured), now a shelter in Pamplona, Colombia. Recognizing the inability of humanitarian organizations to meet the demands of this massive migration, Martha created the improvised shelter in 2018 despite resistance from neighbors and the municipal government. Various parts of her home, such as the living room pictured here, have been turned into areas sleeping and common areas. She works there now with five migrants who decided to stay and help others who have also elected to leave their communities. The shelter additionally feeds 200-300 people daily. Without money for airfare, bus tickets or even a passport, thousands of Venezuelans, including families with babies are on foot, walking to find what they hope will be better lives in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. The displacement of Venezuelans continues as the country falls deeper into socioeconomic and political collapse. This collapse began during the presidency of Hugo Chávez, and has continued into the presidency of Nicolás Maduro. It is marked by hyperinflation, climbing hunger, disease, crime and death rates, and massive emigration from the country. The United Nations estimates 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled since 2014. It is one of the largest mass migrations in Latin American history.