A Trinidadian woman now resident in Colorado in the US was moved to tears by the suffering of Venezuelan women and children who were smuggled into the country last week and left in a forest to feed on mangoes for their survival.
Jackie Smith, who is originally from Arima and has lived in the US for over 45-years, said she was moved by the account of human suffering in the Newsday and was inspired to reach out and help.
“I am sitting here (at her home in the US) crying because I am looking at the Newsday and reading about children in the forest. I would not even go into the forest in Trinidad or anywhere else and anything I can do to help, I will.”
As a Christian, Smith said, “The bible tells us anything you do unto one little child you do it unto God, so I have to do my part.
“I want to make a difference. I want to do something because God is going to hold us responsible for these children,” she said in a telephone interview on Saturday.
Smith said, “I have everything, everything. I am eating every day and these children are not. They are left in the forest where there are snakes and other wild animals.
“To eat mangoes. Oh God! No.”
She said she is going to start a collection fund among fellow Trinidadians settled in the US as well as from friends and co-workers to collect cash and items to send to TT to help the suffering Venezuelans.
“Because there are so many TT nationals who made the US their home and when I read about Venezuelans drowning in the sea as they try to make a better life for themselves in Trinidad, this is heart breaking. We need to get involved.”
Some of the Venezuelans who were found in the Santa Flora forest last week were allowed temporary shelter at the Irwin Park Regional Sporting Complex, Siparia. By Saturday, chairman of the Siparia Regional Corporation Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh said only 11 were still at the facility.
Ramadharsingh said a lot of citizens and NGO's who preferred to remain anonymous poured in to help the migrants with food, clothing and a place to stay.
Government has embarked on a Venezuela Migration Registration Process for the economic migrants seeking refuge in this country. The process which is expected to cost Government $5 million is set to take place between May 31 and June 15 at three centres at the Queens Park Oval, Port of Spain, at Achievers Banquet Hall, Duncan Village, San Fernando and at the Caroline building, Wilson Road, Scarborough, Tobago.
Legal and illegal migrants will be given an opportunity to register to work here for one year, but National Security Minister Stuart Young has warned that after May 15, anyone entering the country illegally will be arrested and deported.
The Prime Minister while compassionate about the plight of our Venezuelan neighbours said TT could not be converted into a refugee camp. He said TT would help, but the government’s priority was for TT citizens.
Speaking on the issue on Radio I 95.5 on Sunday morning, Fitzgerald Hinds, Minister in the office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs said the registration was an opportunity for Venezuelans who had been in the country illegally, long before the crisis, to take advantage of this amnesty.
“If a Venezuelan has been here for 15 years, has overstayed his or her time, is now here illegally, this is that person’s opportunity to let himself be known in that registration process because it would allow us to treat with him.
“In those circumstances all are invited, illegal persons here from Venezuela, to come and engage this registration process because thereafter, we will be take a very strict view in terms of those who have and those who have not.”