DENVER — Two young migrants from Venezuela are sharing the treacherous journey they had to go through to get to the United States.
Cousins Alondra, 8, and Valentina, 10, have been in Denver for only a few days, they said it took months for them to get to the U.S. after leaving everything behind in Venezuela.
The two, who have only been in Denver for a few days, are staying at an encampment on Zuni Street and Speer Boulevard.
"It's pretty here. I really like it," Valentina said, in Spanish.
The two traveled with their family from South America in search of a better life, but getting to their destination was not easy.
“It was horrible. We got robbed. Some people would get sexually assaulted," said Alondra, in Spanish.
“The jungle was really bad. There were a lot of dead people," added Valentina.
Denver sees 300 more migrants arrive in a day as shelter capacity breaks records
Their family is one of thousands who chose to flee widespread violence and economic instability in their home countries.
“In Venezuela, we’re treated badly. Even law enforcement takes our things," said Valentina.
“There was no gas. The money is not enough to buy food," Alondra said. “There's no good education, no jobs.”
Both girls want to become flight attendants so they can travel the world.
“[We want] a better life and to be someone in life," said Valentina.
As of Friday morning, 3,822 migrants were staying in city shelters – a 22% increase from the 3,135 migrants who were staying in city shelters on Oct. 13. Jon Ewing with Denver Human Services said this is an unbelievably difficult time for the city.
"All of the things we would love to do and all the things we're trying to do when it comes to connecting people with these long-term resources just becomes exponentially more challenging when you have 300 people arriving per day," he said.
Denver is hiring bilingual speakers to help with migrant arrivals
One priority, Ewing said, is moving people who are living in tents off the streets.
"When it comes to that encampment that is on Zuni right now, we're in kind of constant conversations about trying to get them some kind of a congregate shelter site, something along those lines where we can get them off that property off the street and into a better managed, a better cared for situation for them," he said.
In December alone, the city has seen 93 buses with migrants arrive from Texas.
"It's extraordinarily tough. The staff is working nonstop to take care of people, I mean, around the clock nonstop. And we're doing everything we can to take care of people," Ewing said.
For Alondra and Valentina, the help they have received so far has meant everything.
“We’re thankful because they’re giving us food because we don’t have enough money for food," Alondra said.
Here's how you can help refugees and immigrants coming to Denver
If you’d like to help as the city responds to this migrant crisis, you can do so with donations – either material or monetary. If opting for the former, the city is asking for the following items:
- Socks (new/unopened only)
- Bras - small/medium/large
- Women’s clothing - small/medium/large
- Men’s clothing - small/medium
- Winter hats - gender neutral and kids/one size fits all
- Winter gloves - men's, women's and kids/small and medium sizes
- Scarves - various sizes
Those items can be dropped off at the following locations:
- Community Ministry (Children's clothing only), located at 1755 S Zuni Street in Denver, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Thursday
- Para Ti Mujer, located at 150 Sheridan Boulevard Suite 200 in Lakewood, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday or Friday
- Colorado Changemakers Collective, located at 12075 East 45th Avenue in Denver, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday
Please call 720-385-9173 before dropping off donations.
If you want to donate money, you can donate to the Newcomers Fund.