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Viatorian School Responds to Migration Crisis at Colombian Border

April 13, 2018

One of the core missions of the Viatorian Community is to embrace those accounted of little importance,

Venezuelan migrants wait outside the clinic

and it continues to drive Viatorians around the world. A recent example took place in March in Colombia, where Viatorians have served for more than 50 years.

Led by Fr. Albeyro Vanegas, CSV, president of Colegio San Viator, students and faculty responded to the growing migration crisis at the border of their country. According to reports, thousands of Venezuelans are pouring out of their crippled nation in what is being described as one of the biggest migration crises in Latin American history.

Fr. Albeyro Vanegas, CSV, right lines up with students to serve migrants

Nowhere is the crisis more acute than in Colombia, where an estimated 250,000 Venezuelan migrants have surged through the border city of Cúcuta since August, with 3,000 a day still arriving, according to a story published in March in the Washington Post.

The colegio is located 250 miles south of this border city between Colombia and Venezuela, in Bogotá. Through Lent, students held a collection drive for clothing for the migrant families, who flee to the border with nothing else but the shirts on their backs.

During Holy Week, Fr. Vanegas, led a group of students and faculty members on a pilgrimage of sorts, when they traveled more than 14 hours to serve the desperate families trying to cross the borders.

They arrived at Divina Providencia, a church-run soup kitchen that has been serving free lunches to 1,000 Venezuelans daily and providing temporary shelter for up to 300.

Without a moment to spare, students and faculty members start distributing the clothing to people who had lined up at the shelter.

“People took any giving piece, gladly,” says Rafael Rodriguez, Spanish teacher. “The glow on their faces and the smiles were more than enough gratitude for the little tokens they received.”

Colegio students and faculty

Next, they donned Latex gloves and surgical masks before starting to serve coffee and bread to people in line.

“Fr. Vanegas led the way with example,” Rodriguez adds, “organizing all the present volunteers, nuns, Venezuelans and Viatorian students and teachers.”

The group came away extremely moved by what they had seen, but glad that they had had a chance to live out the gospel teachings.

“There is still so much to be done, with our brotherly nations working together toward the same dream,” Rodriguez said. “In the meantime, whenever the voices of despotism arise, we will always have the teachings of St. Viator to cling to.”