Venezuelan family meets U.S. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo in Boa Vista

Date 21.09.2020

“A large family with many stories to share.” That’s how Gerardo Anatrella, 52, describes his family. He and his wife Yolesia, 47, have three children: Francesca, 28, Mássimo, 25 and Gerardo Bruno, 20. Francesca’s husband, José Gregório, 29, and their own two little kids Fabiana, 7, and Zamira, an infant, complete the family of eight.

The Anatrellas have been living in Roraima for the past ten months. They decided to leave Venezuela after some financial difficulties in their hometown of Cumaná, in the Venezuelan state of Sucre. Life in Brazil was hard at the beginning. After making a difficult journey to Boa Vista, the family struggled to be admitted to one of the UNHCR reception centers there, and they were left to spend several days living on the streets. After some time, they were all accepted into the São Vicente I reception center, managed by AVSI Brasil in partnership with the Brazilian Government’s program, “Operation Welcome.”

In August, Gerardo, his two sons, and son-in-law were hired by a food processing company located in Seara, in the southern state of Santa Catarina. The selection was facilitated by the Jesuit Service for Migrants and Refugees (SJMR) in partnership with AVSI Brasil, which implements “Welcomed Through Work.” Funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). Gerardo’s family is taking care of the documentation to begin a new life. Before they move, they had a special meeting in Boa Vista. On Friday, September 18, the family met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was visiting Roraima as part of a diplomatic mission to Brazil. The Anatrella family had the chance to tell Secretary Pompeo about their story, their motivations, and their hope for a better future thanks to this great partnership. Representatives from AVSI Brasil, UNHCR, Operação Acolhida, and PRM also attended.

The project Welcomed Through Work improves access to formal work for Venezuelan refugees through voluntary relocation (“interiorization”) to other Brazilian cities. As part of the project’s social assistance component, a social worker helps beneficiaries integrate into their new community and workplace. AVSI Brasil also rents apartments for beneficiaries for the first three months after relocation so they can have security and save money as they begin their new lives.

“I’m delighted my family has been chosen to meet Mike Pompeo - Gerardo Anatrella said - I hope this gesture motivates and encourages other Venezuelans who are afraid of leaving Roraima to move to other cities. I think our story can serve as an example for so many families looking for a new opportunity in Brazil. We look forward to getting to know the new city, and we want to contribute in the best possible way.”

Mike Pompeo Brasil

The family’s story in Brazil

This story began last November when Gerardo Bruno and his brother Massimo decided to migrate to Brazil in search of new job opportunities. The youngest sibling studied telecommunications engineering in Cumaná but was forced to drop out: like many families, their situation was already becoming unsustainable because of the Venezuelan political, economic, and social crisis. Their brother-in-law, José Gregório, accompanied them. The three crossed the border into Brazil towards Pacaraima and then headed to Boa Vista, hoping to get jobs and help the rest of the family back in Venezuela.However, a few weeks later, José Gregório got sick and decided to go back to Venezuela. With his wife getting pregnant, the couple’s situation became unsustainable. They already had a young daughter and had been living in a car wash.

Yolesia, Francesca’s mom, decided to take her pregnant daughter and granddaughter to Brazil, since her two sons had already crossed the border. Yolesia had experience working as an administrative assistant but had been unemployed for some time in Venezuela. Her husband, Gerardo, was working as a cook for a university and decided to stay in the country for a few more weeks.

In Brazil, the family situation was still complicated, as everyone was living on the streets of Boa Vista. At the end of December, Gerardo also fled to Brazil because his daughter was about to have the baby. At the time, the women found shelter in one of the reception centers, and, soon after, the rest of the family joined them in the center.

Finally, together and with a newborn to care for, the family’s hope was renewed. In August, Gerard, his two sons, and son-in-law received the news that a food processing company would hire them. Now, the prospect of having a new home and guaranteed jobs motivates the family, who will embark by the end of the month to the city of Seara, accompanied AVSI Brazil.

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