Ven Informado: A digital lifeline for Venezuelan refugees

Estefany Gabriela Martinez, 24, arrived in Peru as a Venezuelan refugee when she was eight months pregnant. She knew that her daughter would be born a Peruvian citizen, but she was unsure how that would affect her own residency status.

The answers were as close as the browser on her smartphone. She went to Ven Informado, a digital platform offering practical information and real-time advice — on subjects like immigration, laws and customs, and life in Peru — that newcomers from Venezuela need to navigate their new life in Peru. The platform was created by Lutheran World Relief and is accessible through Facebook, Instagram or What’s App.

Estefany Gabriela Martinez, 24, uses Ven Informado to answer her questions about how her immigration status will change once she gives birth to her daughter. (Photo by Morgan Arnold for LWR)

A trusted source

“We found that Venezuelans who arrived in Peru lacked essential information,” says Eduardo Contreras, Lutheran World Relief’s country manager in Peru. “They didn’t know anything about the place where they arrived, what are the Peruvian cultural traits that would help them fit into society. So we created a platform to respond to this need, based on Facebook.”

The name has a dual meaning: Ven Informado is Spanish for “Go Informed,” the mission of the platform, but the Ven also refers to Venezuela. The “Informado” part of the name refers not just to a lack of information, but also the need to counter bad information.

“Information is shared widely among Venezuelan refugees via social network, but much of it is based on rumors and misinformation,” says Carolyn Barker-Villena, who directs Lutheran World Relief programs in Latin America. “So the purpose of Ven Informado is to serve as a trusted source.”

Facebook screen grab of the Ven Informado page

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Practical Information

The site is run by Yesibeth Centeno, 40, a Venezuelan who moved to Peru with her family when her husband took a job in Lima and decided to stay, given the conditions at home. The site offers basics on the legal processes of immigration and pursuing permission to work in the country. And it offers practical information for any newcomer. “So, where do you take the bus, that kind of day to day information,” says Yesibeth. “how do I get my telephone line or how do I open a bank account? What are the daily problems with which one arrives in a country and you know nothing?”

But Yesibeth drew on her experience as a recent arrival in Peru in helping to create content that went beyond the basics, explaining social and cultural nuances of life in Peru that could be confusing to Venezuelans.

“For example, the subject of communication,” she says. “Although we both speak Spanish, we do not speak it in the same way.” So a recent Facebook post explained two different ways of saying what in English would be the expression, “Cool!” While in Venezuela you’d say “chévere,” it’s only cool in Peru if you say “bacán.” Another post pointed out that there are two different expressions to describe taking up a collection among friends to pay something like a dinner check or to buy a group gift: “hacer una vaca” in Venezuela, literally to “make a cow,” and “hacer una chancha” in Peru, to “make a pig.”

Estefany Gabriela Martinez gets some assistance using Ven Informado from Felipe Carrión, an outreach worker with LWR partner Encuentros. (Photo by Morgan Arnold for LWR)

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Real-time answers

One of the most popular features of Ven Informado is its live chat, where a staff member is available to answer questions in real time via Whats App, a messaging platform that is popular in Latin America. So when Estefany had questions about what steps she should take after her baby is born, she didn’t have to wait long for her answers.

“It was good. I got a quick response,” she says. “I got all the information I needed.”

CREATED BY
John Rivera, Mar 21, 2019 email