The Light Up the Night: For a Brighter Venezuela Gala is Back

The impact of Fe y Alegría, which was founded in Venezuela over 65 years ago, has always been felt beyond its direct work with marginalized and vulnerable communities. Ask any Venezuelan–on the streets of Miami, Madrid, or Maracaibo–and they will tell you their “Fe y Alegría story”. Through its connections with many public and private institutions, including the Catholic Church, Fe y Alegría has brought individuals together in collaboration in two ways: 1) the annual raffle and 2) community programs, which allowed students to visit Fe y Alegría schools to learn how the organization supports marginalized communities.

Even years later, many Venezuelans recall their experience with the annual raffle and how this special time of the year would fill their hearts. Regardless of where they are now, Fe y Alegría, the raffle, and its little red heart transports Venezuelans of all ages and backgrounds back to that sense of community and belonging. This is the case of Carolina Domínguez, María Alecia Klemprer and Mariana Bustillos, three friends from Venezuela who now live in Houston, Texas. Living outside Venezuela for a number of years, the trio had a growing sense of longing to contribute to the future of their home, in any way shape or form.

“When we became familiar with Magis Americas and Friends of Fe y Alegría in the US, we immediately felt compelled to work together,” said Dominguez.“There was trust in the platform, process and institutionalization of the organization that is not easy to find when working with organizations in Latin America.”

This clear connection to the impact and history of success by Fe y Alegría, as well as the security and transparency provided by Fe y Alegría’s relationship with Magis Americas, it’s long time U.S. partner and fiscal sponsor, allowed Dominguez, Klemprer and Bustillos to realize that this was the perfect opportunity to take action and support their country and its future generations.

Thus, with the support and guidance of Jesús “Txuo” Rodríguez Villarroel, S.J., executive director of Fundación Unidos en la Misión, the Light Up the Night: For a Brighter Venezuela gala was born.

In its first year, in 2019, the gala was a complete success. It gave participants the chance to contribute with friends and family, not only as Bustillos said, to “see that [their] little grain of salt, translates into the smiles on kids’ faces, joy”but also to see a direct line of support to Fe y Alegría as it continues on facing challenge after challenge. It was a true celebration of the work of Fe y Alegría and a moment in which individuals came together for a Brighter Venezuela. To the organizer’s surprise, the event also had strong support and participation from individuals who were not from Venezuela, but who had a strong connection to the country. It gave everyone a chance to get involved.

This year, after being postponed twice due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Light Up the Night: For a Brighter Venezuela gala is back to give individuals a chance to remain connected to the needs of Venezuela and contribute to the organizations working towards solutions. The gala will be inspired by Venezuelan culture through its ambiance and music, dancing and celebrating.

To learn more about the Light Up the Night: For a Brighter Venezuela gala, as well as purchase tickets, sponsor and/or donate, click here.

The gala will take place at the Silver Street Studios (2000 Edwards St., Houston, TX 77007) on Saturday May 7, 2022, at 7pm.

Magis Americas joins the Xavier Network

Magis Americas has been accepted as the 14th member of the Xavier Network, an international network of Jesuit mission offices and non-governmental development organizations from Europe, Canada, Australia, and, now, the United States. Through this development, Magis Americas will contribute to the global mission of the Society of Jesus in partnership and coordination with other Jesuit works around the world.

“We are grateful for this opportunity to heed Father Sosa’s call to collaborate across borders,” said Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J., President of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States (JCCU). “Together with Canadian Jesuits International, Magis Americas looks forward to working within the Xavier Network to strengthen our Conference’s contributions to the Society’s global mission of reconciliation.”

The Xavier Network, which takes its name and inspiration from St. Francis Xavier, was founded in 2004 under the simple principle “that by joining together we can achieve more”. Member organizations collaborate in four areas: response to humanitarian emergencies, advocacy, development projects, and overseas volunteer programs.

“We are thrilled to be joining the Xavier Network. This is not only an opportunity to collaborate with other Jesuit organizations, but to also learn from their wealth of experience and knowledge,” said Nate Radomski, executive director of Magis Americas. “We have been working toward this moment for a number of years and I am grateful to the JCCU and the Xavier Network for their support and commitment to seeing this goal become a reality.”

Within the JCCU, Magis Americas will coordinate with Canadian Jesuits International on joint initiatives, including fundraising appeals for humanitarian emergencies, as was previously done for the earthquake in Haiti and response to the second wave of COVID-19 in India.

In Venezuela, Life Cannot Longer Wait

About 6 million Venezuelans have left their country during the first two decades of the 21st century, the vast majority have been forced to flee, especially since 2016. This exodus is massive, precarious and multi-causal. Despite COVID-19, the migratory flow dynamics have regained their driving force. The vast majority of Venezuelans who walk, or have settled outside of Venezuela, do so in neighboring countries and in Latin American territory. The Venezuelan diaspora competes with that of Syria to top the world ranking of people in need of international protection. Meanwhile, the situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate in terms of incompatibility of dignified life opportunities. If the question is to live, shouldn’t the international community offer a humanitarian response, with full access to rights and guaranteeing due protection? On World Refugee Day, we must remember that the Venezuelan exodus is an exodus of people seeking refuge.

From our perspective of a Network focused on Migrants, we could be tempted to fix our gaze, alone, on forced migration as a consequence of a country that is publicly and socially broken. We would have plenty of work. Despite the massive humanitarian urgency that the Venezuelan migratory flow represents; despite restrictive policies and various strategies of rejection and expulsion from countries of transit and destination; despite the growing political, media, and social trend that contributes to xenophobia and the criminalization of migration; despite the high risk of the journey, especially for certain vulnerable groups like women and children; despite the general precariousness of the conditions of walkers, etc… Despite all this, we cannot put aside the crisis that is being experienced within Venezuela. A profound multidimensional crisis, in which forced migration is only one of the expressions. A radical change in the internal situation of the country cannot be postponed. Today, Venezuela has an array of reasons that force millions of Venezuelans to flee the country – each time in worse conditions – or that condemn individuals to a life without possibilities (without hope?). Our call for the protection of the Venezuelan people who have left cannot silence the international responsibility, as humanity, to respond today to what is lived within Venezuela.

Let’s go back to the exodus. In recent years, rather than a change in the profile of who is fleeing, we have identified this profile has become generalized. Any Venezuelan is potentially a forced migrant because of the impossibility of accessing rights or the possibility of being subject to true risk within the country, there are not exceptions, but generalized features. For a long time, the conditions for the road have not been a determining factor in making the decision to move. The migratory call increasingly responds to a desperate attempt to live, regardless of the adjective or fundamentally broken right that we place next to it. This supposes an exponential increase in the migratory phenomenon with an absence of a true life project as a migrant, forced migration is proof that life, under certain conditions, can no longer be an expectation. Life is walking.

Linked to the lack of conditions to undertake the trip, we must bear in mind that the migration route, much earlier than at airports or official crossings between countries, begins at the door of the home or community. The internal transit in Venezuela towards the borders – at times remains invisible – posing extreme difficulty and high risks. This internal forced displacement requires humanitarian accompaniment and comprehensive protection. The scarcity of resources, limitations on humanitarian actors in Venezuela, and exposure to risks from legal and illegal frameworks in the country make humanitarian responses highly complicated.

The conditions of international transit propose other peculiarities and risks but fall under the same light as fragility, vulnerability, and precariousness. Crossing the border (either through official or unofficial paths) does not imply a triumphant arrival at a goal, nor does it necessarily imply the culmination of success. The humanitarian situation of the migrant walkers is alarming. There are many actors and situations of risk – trafficking and trafficking schemes throughout the continent, and shipwrecks in the Caribbean, among many others. Countries and the international community as a whole, cannot abstract from the collective responsibility for this map of disasters in the conditions of migration. Restrictive policies, the closure and militarization of borders, and other strategies to deter migration cause the disappearance and death of thousands of migrants, the alarming humanitarian situation, and deportation. Venezuelan forced migration is overwhelming and will continue to overwhelm any attempt to contain it, as long as the root causes of it remain.

The integration spaces in the host countries show very different realities. More than half of the Venezuelan people who make up this mass migration lack a regular situation in the country where they are, this implies an obvious limitation of access to rights and protection. In general, there are no reception policies that are truly comprehensive; that respond to the multiple dimensions of the human being; that take into consideration the differential approaches that respond to particularities of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual identity, and so on. The livelihoods of migrant populations have been especially affected during the pandemic. In many cases, the essential contribution they have made to society (care, food, etc.) has not been recognized. On the contrary, xenophobic discourses are constructed for electoral purposes, denying the human condition of the foreigner and identifying him/her as an invader or criminal. There are still territories that deny or limit access to the vaccine due to immigration status.

Every June 20 the international calendar reminds us of the reality of millions of refugees or people in need of international protection. Most never achieve recognition of their right to asylum. As UNHCR already did in May 2019, as well as a large part of civil society, we affirm that the Venezuelan forced migratory flow must be considered as a migratory flow in need of international protection. States must ensure access to territories and asylum procedures. This cannot be what limits access to other rights associated with any process of regularization and comprehensive reception. For this reason, the Red Jesuita con Migrantes and Magis Americas, along with other allied organizations and networks, within the framework of the Donors Conference in solidarity with Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees held June 17th in Canada, provided a set of recommendations to the international community to make a turn in its political action.

Life is what is at stake, and life cannot wait.