Jimy Beltran has been away from Venezuela for over 10 years. Now, he wants to make a difference in his home country while still in Canada.
The fourth-year student honouring in history and economics is looking tell to positive stories out of the South American country, one of current political turmoil and minimal resources, while fundraising for food and medicine its civilians desperately need.
His idea was Venezuela 180°, a humanitarian effort aimed at doing just that.
“I grew frustrated as the situation has continued to worsen in my country,” he said.
“I was not satisfied on a personal level with the solutions that were available for me.”
The idea for the project came to Beltran this past July when he came across a website called Caracas 450, which highlights 450 places in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, that have done something good for it’s people. With a similar project in mind, Beltran contacted the creator of the website for her support and advice.
With her blessing, he got to work.
“We want to reshape the way people see Venezuela by looking at it from a 180-degree angle, not focusing on the negative but focusing on the positive,” he said.
“Most of the media coverage of Venezuela has been focusing on the negative aspects of Venezuelan society — the riots, shortages, political corruption — but we want to shed light on the lives of the people who are trying to make Venezuela a better place.”
There are three parts to the project: the charitable side, the journalistic side and the historical side.
Fundraising is done in Canada to purchase food and medicine that will be distributed to people in need in Venezuela. Stories will be shared on the website about organizations trying to make the country a better place.
The historical side focuses on how Venezuela’s past has created the current crisis. Through that, Beltran hopes to show people that preventative measures must be taken.
“On the website there is a timeline of 118 events that explain the background of the crisis, because it wasn’t something that happened in one day,” he said. “It’s a process of events that have been accumulated during more than 60 to 70 years.”
The website encompasses all three aspects of the project so people from around the world can learn about the history, read positive stories happening in Venezuela and also donate to the cause.
After months of work by Beltran and University of New Brunswick student Aaron Frank, the website officially launched on Oct. 17 and is available in Spanish and English.
Although the website was created by the pair, the project has been a much larger group effort. Beltran recruited journalists, editors, translators, delivery personnel in Venezuela, and even his own father, to make this project a reality.
A fellow STU volunteer helping Beltran with fundraising is also from Venezuela.
“I feel that I can actually do something from outside of Venezuela,” said Oriana Cordido, a third-year STU student.
“It means a lot [that] I can help people that are struggling to get food and medicine.”
The team collects donations through a GoFundMe page and Beltran has also applied to multiple institutions for funding.
The project is set to last one year but it depends on the reception and the number of donations the team receives.
However, Beltran is hopeful that the project will expand and become more sustainable.
“My idea is to reach as many people as possible so we can get more people helping us. And volunteers are always welcome to join the team because it is a collective effort,” he said.
Beltran wants to show people around the world that good things can be done if you work for it.
“I feel that I’m doing something for my country,” he said.
“It’s so rewarding to see so much happiness there is in the people that we’re helping. It’s the feeling that you’re changing the world and that’s very powerful.”