#GivingTuesdayEvery year many nonprofits kick off the holiday season by participating in #GivingTuesday, a global day that seeks to shift the season's focus to collaboration and giving back. On this year's #GivingTuesday — November 27 — the U.S. Federation has a unique opportunity for people to give back to our global Joseph family in a profound way.

In recent years Venezuela has faced significant political, economic, and social crisis. These crises have resulted in a shortage of basic and necessary items such as food, medicine, and hygiene products. As a result, an increasing number of people are fleeing the country and settling in surrounding countries, especially in the neighboring state of Roraima, Brazil. According to National Geographic, Brazil has received more than 58,000 Venezuelan refugees since 2017. In August, the government reported that for the last year an average of 500 migrants cross the border every day.

Many are settling in the city of Pacaraima and in the Roraima capital of Boa Vista in search of better conditions requesting refugee status or humanitarian visas. This issue is compounded by many indigenous peoples settling in Pacaraima, including the Warao ethnic group. The Warao people face extreme vulnerability as many do not speak Spanish or Portuguese and have no knowledge of their rights as immigrants or an indigenous group. They mainly live on the streets of Pacaraima, without food, housing, and medical care or live in a gymnasium, assisted by the Army-led Humanitarian Task Force.

Pacaraima also hosts thousands of non-indigenous peoples. Women and children continue to be vulnerable to trafficking situations, especially for the purpose of sexual exploitation and slave labor. Those who choose to stay in Pacaraima face many difficulties: inadequate local infrastructure for medical care, education, housing, shelter, security, food, and water; scarcity of human and financial resources; increasing incidences of xenophobia, discrimination and violence, including by the local community.

As a response to this urgent situation, religious in Brazil are mobilizing to help those in need. A local priest, Fr. Jesus López Fernández de Bobadilla, has help mobilize religious on several fronts: Café Fraterno (Fraternal Coffee), which serves about 1,500 people; the Migrant Pastoral Center which distributes food, assists with documentation, and provides referrals; Jesus Peregrino Children's Care Center was opened to educate 100 children aged 3-15; religious services in Spanish for migrants.

Answering the call to serve our "dear neighbors," the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery- Brazil Province are committed to assisting the Venezuelan refugees settling within Brazil. According to our sisters, "it is a delicate, an emergent humanitarian situation and there is a great need for acceptance, as well as a cry for the presence of our charism of unity and reconciliation."

On August 10, Sisters Délcia Decker and Ana Maria Silva — accompanied by the provincial Sr. Luiza Rodrigues of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery-Brazil province— arrived at their new mission. Our sisters are called to be a feminine presence as they minister in the shelters and in the streets, assisting in any way needed. They represent a link of unity as they join forces to partner with other humanitarian groups as they serve refugees. The two sisters represent a feminine presence, helping humanize the reception of refugees in the shelters and in the streets. They attend meetings held by government officials and act as translators, bringing that information back to the refugees. They spend time listening and being a close presence with those in crisis. They make referrals and provide resources, according to the needs.

A Sister of St. Joseph of Chambery-Brazil province pictured with a Venezuelan mom and her four-day old baby.

Some funding has been obtained to assist the 8,000 migrants they serve — providing food to avoid malnourishment, transportation to find employment, medication, and basic living necessities such as warm clothing and blankets.

However, the current unmet need is to fund accommodations for the refugees. Most refugees previously lived on the streets as they awaited the long, arduous process of applying for immigration status with the government. While many are now able to stay in shelters or rented rooms, these shelters face extreme overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. According to the last survey done in the region, approximately 1,100 people live on the streets and another 1,200 live in abandoned houses in Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima.

We're asking on this #GivingTuesday that you consider donating to our sisters in Brazil and their mission to help the Venezuelan refugees. These funds will directly help our sisters to provide shelter for the refugees fleeing violence, starvation, and death in Venezuela. This is an excellent opportunity to not only support our global Joseph family but to also directly support the people of Venezuela and Brazil. Through our Brazilian missionaries, our congregational charism and commitment to our "dear neighbor" can extend beyond borders.

You can donate via Breeze here: https://cssjfed.breezechms.com/form/9018cd97

The U.S. Federation would also like to thank everyone who has already contributed to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon Province in Mexico. So far, we've raised over $16,000 worth of funds through our website. Through your generous support we've been able to assist the sisters ministering in the "Albergue Decanal Guadalupano," a shelter for migrants sponsored by the diocese and staffed by our Sisters, lay partners, and volunteers. The sisters and their volunteers are mobilizing to provide, what they expect to be, a massive amount of assistance as the asylum seekers reach Tierra Blanca and then move beyond it.

This support again gives great credence to the corporate voice statement we released calling for the welcome and human treatments of migrants arriving to the U.S.-Mexico border. We are grateful for the opportunities to continue to turn our words into actions and support our global Joseph family.