In Venezuela, internal political conflicts have led to a humanitarian crisis that has forced hundreds of thousands of its citizens to flee the country in recent years. According to Brookings, in 2020 the Venezuelan refugee crisis will surpass the scale of the Syrian crisis. Like other migrants across the globe, Venezuelans often face xenophobia and discrimination in the countries where they take shelter. In Ecuador, which receives close to 2,000 Venezuelan migrants every day, Enseña Ecuador is working alongside the Inter-American Development Bank among other organizations to combat xenophobia by creating inclusive classroom environments that foster tolerance, empathy, and respect for everyone, regardless of their country of origin.
The following reflection was written by a group of Enseña Ecuador participants who teach in a school where most of the students are Venezuelan, and are deeply immersed in these efforts:
“Go away, you Venezuelan.” A six-year-old child in Quito is attacked for his country of origin. The news came during our first months as Enseña Ecuador fellows—a reflection of the growing xenophobic sentiment in our country, and the sort of comments that have become routine. Friends and family now point their fingers, seeking to blame “the other” for economic and social distress, and turning a nationality into a synonym for crime and insecurity. For us this news was also a call to action to do our part.
Through an agreement between Enseña Ecuador and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), we fellows were placed in schools in the northern part of Quito, to work with children experiencing human mobility—families that escaped the pressing situation in their country, seeking a refuge of sorts, only to find bigotry and discrimination within our borders. Our purpose is to team up with parents, teachers, and students to foster a more nurturing and inclusive society. We believe that classrooms provide us the perfect starting point for such a task, emphasizing learning through human rights. And although we have encountered a certain degree of apathy towards Venezuelans, we do believe there is a great opportunity to change these mindsets—to remember that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and the place you were born in cannot undermine this fact.