March 26, 2024

Kelly's story

This blog is also available in Spanish here. Este blog está disponible en español aquí.

We are a family of six with three girls, a boy, a mom and a dad. We are Venezuelans, proud of our nationality. We are from the plains. These lands consist mainly of livestock where cultivation is one of the greatest assets between Venezuela and Colombia. There are numerous farms with livestock and crops. We love our country and our roots.

I love being with my family, food like cachapas (cornbread) made of ground corn and filled with delicious cheese, a delicious pabellón that consists of rice, black beans, shredded meat, egg, cheese, avocado and fried plantain. And especially having coffee with my mom. But unfortunately, the situation in our country was getting worse and worse and this was affecting us. There was no more money and no work.

I knew that we had to make the most difficult decision of our lives, to migrate to the United States to ensure a better future for our family. A few days passed after making that decision, the hardest part came and that was saying goodbye to our relatives. It was very hard and very sad, but we knew it was the best decision.

At that time, we had to sell all our belongings to raise the money to be able to travel. Unfortunately, there was not enough money for the six of us to travel, so we had to leave the two oldest girls, ages 9 and 10, with their grandmother, my mother. It was even more painful for me to have to leave them. I was leaving a piece of me in our country without knowing how long it would take for me to see them again.

The day arrived and we went to Medellín, Colombia, where we contacted some people who would take us through the fearful Darien Gap (some call it hell for migrants). We spent three long days there walking and crossing swamps and hundreds of rivers, exposing our lives to danger at every moment, but always trusting God who was our guide on this journey. My five- and six-year-old children encouraged me by telling me, “You can do it, mommy!”

We arrived in Costa Rica thinking that all danger was over, but it was not. That was when more paths and complications came. We passed that country to Nicaragua then to Honduras. Our children got sick there and we had to stay two nights as we asked God for the children's speedy recovery.

From then on things began to get even more complicated for us because we no longer had much money, my partner and I no longer ate three meals ourselves so we could feed our children well and we only drank water but we always had faith and the desire to reach our destination.

We arrived in Guatemala where at each bus stop they asked us for more money for being migrants. Unfortunately, we have to give money to the drivers or they would leave us there and it could become even more expensive because we would have had to pay more fares.

We arrived in Mexico and went directly to Tapa Chula where we had to get a permit to be able to move to Mexico City and not have any problems with immigration. When we arrived at the place we had to stand in a line where there were more than 1000 people of different nationalities. We spent the night enduring cold and rain.

We managed to get the permit the next day thanks to the fact that they organized the people giving priority to those who had children. We continued advancing to Mexico City where the tickets to the border were sold out. Mexico was already overwhelmed with so many people wanting to reach the border – to freedom, to the dream of a better future. We stayed three days waiting for tickets, feeling desperate and fatigued.

After three days we got tickets to the border and we were very happy at that moment because we were closer to our destination. We arrived at the border and walked for 30 more minutes with swollen feet and blisters and calluses on our feet. We arrived and it was surprising to see so many people living in tents who had been there for many days.

We asked several people how it was for one to surrender to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and ask for asylum. And everyone said that it was very difficult and also that it takes luck. We made the decision to surrender.

With great fear we crossed the Rio Grande, we entered through some barbed wire that divides the border between Mexico and the United States. As we crossed, there were some soldiers where they kindly showed us the way to hand over our belongings and thus hand ourselves over to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. When we entered there, they reviewed each of our documents and selected families and single people. Then they put us on a bus to take us to a processing center. After they processed us, they took data, signatures, photos, and fingerprints. They took us to an extremely cold cabin with 30 or 40 families where you sleep on a mattress with sheets made of aluminum bags. We were at the processing center for six long days. Those days were very difficult because they separated me from my son and my partner and I was with our daughter. There were six long days where we didn't even see sunlight, and each dawn was an anguish of not knowing what would happen to us. Every day I feared deportation.

On the sixth day they called me to give us our immigration papers and to see my son and my partner again. With tears in my eyes, we met again. I continued to thank God for giving us the strength and wisdom to get there. I was sure that our future and that of our children was about to change.

Today we are in New York betting on a better life and a better future for our family. We always thank God for giving us the strength to get here and for placing extraordinary people in our path.

With faith in God, everything is always possible!

Kelly, Fred, Nadia and Andrés* are still in a shelter in NYC. If you watch the news, you know the refugee centers are not optimal places to live, particularly with young children. Please pray for them so that God blesses them and gives them much peace, community, help, faith and love.

*Names have been changed to protect their identity.