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Living Water Community director Rhonda Maingot

Venezuelans in T&T are suffering according to the Director of the Living Water Community, Rhonda Maingot.

She painted a very bleak picture of the lives of Venezuelans in T&T calling their situation “dire”.

“They really suffer. The Venezuelans here in T&T suffer. It is horrible to listen to them. A lot of them have been accused of all sorts of things by locals. People do not like them. They know that. All of the time, they are under tackle by T&T nationals. It is not good for the Venezuelans, it is not good for our country,” she said on Friday night at an online seminar hosted by the Trade and Economic Unit of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Speaking about the impact of COVID-19 on Venezuelans in T&T, she said there has been a “massive loss of livelihoods.”

“This is due to businesses closing and they are on the breadline. There is food insecurity and eating once a day. It has become the norm for them. Sometimes not even eating once a day for many Venezuelan families. Some have contracted COVID-19 and have self quarantined. Many of them have health issues like cancer. It is terrible to hear their stories.”

She also said there are cases of gender-based violence and child abuse in the Venezuelan community in T&T.

Venezuelans are also robbed of their hard-earned money by local criminals.

“There are even cases of kidnapping for money and robberies. People walk into Venezuelans’ homes and the little money that they have saved up under the mattress these bandits take their savings and whatever they have. You could imagine the pain that causes for them. Our sisters and brothers from Venezuela are at the mercy of so many terrible things.”

On the topic of education, she said there are a lot of Venezuelan children here who are not in school.

“Through the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) we work with over 1,000 kids in schools. The Prime Minister has opened up discussions with the Catholic Board and allowed the education board to take children into the schools but COVID came in and nothing came out of it. So we still have all these children. Hopefully, when COVID ends, we can move to the opening of Catholic schools and other denominational schools.”

On a more positive note, she said that Venezuelans are “very keen” on opening their own businesses in T&T.

“A lot of people in this 16,000 registered are very eager to get going and to work and to bring all their skills to T&T and to the economy here. We see a lot of people getting into businesses here and doing well. People also like agriculture and want to get into this.”