New Possibilities for Venezuelan Refugee, With Support From ECHO and UNHCR
17 January 2022
Over a decade after a devastating car accident, Erwin Vazquez has faced challenges earning an income. Now, ECHO and UNHCR are supporting him and his family.
Erwin Barreto Vazquez was 21 years old when a car crash in Maracaibo, Venezuela left him paralyzed from the waist down in 2005. Thankfully, Erwin had the support of his friends and family in Venezuela to help him persevere through this devastating ordeal.
Over a decade after this accident, Erwin’s ability to live and survive became severely challenged. Worsening socioeconomic conditions and insecurity in his home country made it extremely difficult for him and his family to survive. “Every month I had to make a choice of whether I would buy food, diapers or medical supplies” he said.
In desperation, Erwin fled to nearby Trinidad and Tobago in 2019, with his wife Yenitza and their son Emanuel following soon after. “Many people helped me along that dangerous journey to get here, and when I got here, thankfully I had the support of my brother, Johan who had come to Trinidad a few months earlier.” Erwin is a recognized refugee, and his family are still asylum seekers.
The family lived in Penal before moving to a small apartment in El Dorado, at the start of 2021. Unfortunately, inconsistent access to basic needs continued to plague the family in Trinidad and Tobago, with the limited livelihood opportunities available to them further negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Having a debilitating condition with little opportunity available to achieve self-reliance, Erwin was approved for longer-term assistance from the UNHCR cash assistance programme funded by the EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, ECHO. The goal of this programme is to provide cash assistance to address the serious protection needs faced by individuals and households that have been heightened by their loss of income and livelihoods opportunities and resultant inability to self-manage. The programme is administered through the delivery of Visa Gift Cards by implementing partner, Living Water Community, to persons who are approved for assistance.
As he is unable to walk or move easily over long distances, Erwin’s brother, Johan is usually the one who assists him to get the things he needs with the gift card.
Through the withdrawal of cash from the gift card at an ATM, Erwin has been able to use the assistance to buy medicine, medical supplies and food for himself and his now five-year-old son, Emanuel del Jesus.
“I am also so thankful to UNHCR and ECHO for the assistance they have provided because I don’t know what I would have done without it” he said. “My only hope is that one day my son will be able to go to school so that he can have a better life than mine.”
Trinidad and Tobago hosts over 24,000 refugees and migrants from Venezuela who have left their country fleeing from widespread shortages of basic items, like medicine, and insecurity. Many of them struggle to integrate in their new communities, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated their dire needs.