An Ecuadorian program called the Graduation Model is giving displaced people, including those fleeing from crisis in Venezuela, the tools they need to thrive in their new homes.
The program primarily aims to ensure that refugees have a steady income, which is a “crucial predictor of [their] success,” according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
The Graduation Model, which is run by the UNHCR’s partner, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, teaches refugees entrepreneurship, financial management, and provides vocational training. Additional services include psychological aid, as well as seed money and mentoring to help the refugees pursue new work opportunities.
Osmar and Valeria fled Venezuela with her family to Ecuador on 2017. They have since been a part of the Graduation Model, a UNHCR program implemented by HIAS that seeks economic integration of particularly vulnerable refugee families.
One success story recounted by the UNHCR is that of Valeria, a Venezuelan refugee who is pursuing a career in event planning. Another is Deilys, a 36-year-old mother of two who fled due to political persecution in 2017. In Ecuador, she has used her seed money from the Graduation Model to purchase cooking supplies and now sells vegan desserts at street fairs, and hopes to own her own shop one day.
“Since 2015, more than 3,150 refugee families in Ecuador have been through the program,” said the UNHCR.
Venezuela has been in a state of humanitarian crisis for several years following a severe economic downturn. Poverty and hunger are widespread, while access to health care, sanitation, and education remains scarce.
The UNHCR has called this refugee crisis "the largest exodus in the region’s recent history.” Over 4.5 million refugees have fled from Venezuela, about 16% of the population, according to the Brookings Institute.
Deilys fled Venezuela with her family and arrived in Ecuador on December, 2017. With the economic support and courses given by the Graduation Model, Deilys created a brand of vegan desserts, selling them at events providing a regular income.
These numbers are similar to the refugee crisis out of Syria, yet the Venezuelan refugee crisis has not received much funding from the global community. The Brookings Institute says that, per capita, $125 have been spent per capita on Venezuelan refugees, as opposed to $1,500 per capita being spent on Syrian refugees.