Claudia* is 12 years old; her mother was forced to leave her and her little sister in Venezuela. She was desperate and needed work and money. Like millions of people, Claudia’s mother left Venezuela, a country in deep political and economic crisis. In neighbouring Colombia, she found work but had to sleep on the streets.
“I worried the most for my little sister, because she was still very small,” Claudia says.
Claudia also crossed the border with Mariana*, a friend of the family. Now she stays with Mariana, close to where her mother and little sister sleep and work in a Colombian border town. She sees them sometimes.
“In Venezuela, I was always with my mum, we were always together,” Claudia says. “But here I have to live with Mariana because my mum is living on the street in the market. And to be with her… well, the money is to buy food, lunch, for my little sister. So I can’t.”
Girls that are migrants and refugees are especially vulnerable when families are on the move. Families fleeing from economic hardship sometimes find themselves in similarly difficult circumstances in the new country. The border area of Colombia, where Claudia lives, is home to several of the armed guerrilla groups that have fought the government and each other for decades. Organised crime, dealing in both narcotics and human trafficking, is well established and violence is common.
“I would tell children in a similar situation to me to think before they make decisions. Because sometimes things can turn out bad.”
Claudia is not in school, but she goes regularly to the nearby Child Friendly Space that is set up and run by Save the Children. In this tent, migrant children can play, learn and be safe. The informal education and playing at this centre help children find friends and support.
“When I go there and when I play with the children there, I feel happy,” Claudia says. “I like to be with my friends.”
“I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up,” Claudia says. “Well… maybe I can become a police officer, to help save children who live in the street. To help people.”
The crisis in Venezuela have forced nearly five million people to leave the country. Increased violence, food shortages and collapse of basic functions in society like schools and health care has made life unbearable.
“The situation is really ugly there,” Claudia says about Venezuela. “If I could tell the politicians in both Venezuela and Colombia something, I would ask them both to stop the anger and to speak with each other.”
*Name has been changed.