Members of the Adventist Rescue Team GARSA assist during ADRA Colombia’s food distribution in Cúcuta, Colombia, Apr. 4-14, 2020. Dozens of Adventists donated crops and food items to help feed vulnerable families affected by the unemployment the pandemic has brought about. [Photo: ADRA Colombia]

April 21, 2020 | Medellin, Colombia | Daniel Arrieta/Inter-American Division News Staff

Seventh-day Adventists across north Colombia collected their crops, resources and goods to donate to hundreds of the most needy families in Cúcuta, a city with many low income families near the border with Venezuela.  More than nine tons of food were collected and distributed to 500 families from April 4-14, 2020. The initiative was coordinated by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Colombia.

Many of the crop donations came from church members who own plantation farms throughout the country, local church leaders said. Other donations and ADRA Colombia funds were part of the initiative.

“We were so pleased when church members from the Arauca municipal district sent in so many products they grow to help others in dire need,” said Cesar Saldarriaga, ADRA Coordinator in the northeast region in Cúcuta.

An ADRA volunteer hands food to a needy person in Cúcuta. [Photo: ADRA Colombia]

ADRA Colombia’s Country Director Jair Flórez, who has coordinated several projects through ADRA to benefit needy communities throughout the country in coordination with the government, said that a recent government survey showed that between November 2019 and January 2020, 46.6 percent of those who live in 23 cities and metropolitan areas in the country do not have a steady income. Rather, they live day-to-day from the sale of goods on the streets, the survey said.

“We know that these statistics include many of the church members and the general public that require humanitarian support especially during the isolation measures recently declared by the national government,” said Flórez.

Earlier last month the Adventist Church established a special 15-person committee tasked with dealing with the sanitary emergency and to monitor the development of the pandemic in the entire country, explained Flórez.

An ADRA Colombia volunteer holds a bag of plantains from a church member’s plantation as a donation for the needy families in Cúcuta, Colombia. [Photo: ADRA Colombia]

“Since the virus hit Colombia, the government has issued close to 37 guidelines for distributing goods, and our plan is to follow them to protect the population and the membership of the church,” he added.

Dressed in protective gear, ADRA volunteers distributed food, goods, credit vouchers for local supermarkets, as well as cash donations.

Pastor Mauricio Buitrago, health ministries director for the church in North Colombia, thanked church members who came together to bless others during the pandemic. “We give God the honor and the praise because He has provided resources so that we can help more families at this time,” said Buitrago. “We are here to help others.”

Under the project’s slogan Stay at Home, ADRA Colombia is planning to continue reaching out to the membership to collaborate in assisting needy families in the coming weeks.

Church member volunteers sort out food before assembling food baskets for more than 500 needy families in Cúcuta, Colombia.  [Photo: ADRA Colombia]

“We know that this emergency is going to last longer and the church is prepared for it,” said Flórez. “We are committed with ADRA and the church to continue looking for resources to support the most vulnerable families.”

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