Carlos Daniel Hernandez is a venezuelan refugee grateful to God and to TT, the country which opened its doors to him five years ago.
Hernández is a native of Maracay, Venezuela and since coming to TT in 2016 he has worked in various jobs to help his family.
“In recent years I have worked in the world of fishmongers and thanks to many Trinidadian friends I have learned everything related to this business,” he said.
Hernández told Sunday Newsday a little over a year ago, he and his brother Maikol decided to start their own business, selling fish.
“We moved all over Trinidad, we have fishermen from various places who supply us weekly at good prices and that helps us promote local fish and sell it at good prices to the community,” he said.
The covid19 pandemic has affected hundreds of Hernández’s Venezuelan friends in TT and seeing that his business remained stable, he and his family decided to help the most vulnerable who were left jobless owing to the restrictions and lack of jobs.
Since he started his own business, Hernandez has made many more friends in the fishing area and several of them help him with the project by giving donations of fish for the poor.
“It’s not that we have all the money in the world to give away, we are grateful to God,” Hernandez said.
This is the fourth week of the project.
“We started in St Helena, but last week I was joined by two Trinidadian vendors who supported the initiative and settled in Chaguanas and Charileville to distribute free mixed fish too. That Saturday we gave away more than 5,000 pounds between the three trucks,” Hernández said.
He said the project is not only to help Venezuelans.
“The objective is to give others a little of the blessings that God gives us, that is why our work is for all the people who are in difficult situations owing to the pandemic.”
After two days of distributing free fish, Hernández decided to make it public through the social networks of Venezuelans in TT.
“We want to help people with a little of what we sell. There have been days in which other people help us with food and fruits which are also included in the fish bag,” said Hernández.
On Friday, with support from La Casita they gave more than 800 pounds of fish to families affected by the restrictions in Arima.
More than 100 people were able to receive a bag of cro-cro fish and cornmeal.
“It is a team effort, Carlos with his beautiful project gives fish and we from La Casita help with the cornmeal,” said Andreina Briceno Brown, director of La Casita.
The people were invited according to the socio-economic conditions of the refugee families previously registered through a census.
However, the amount of fish was much larger than expected and more people benefited from the generosity.
Hernandez’s project begins its momentum at an important moment where more people need help and just as World Refugee Day is commemorated today.
He hopes that not only more fishermen will have this same initiative to help others, he also calls on all the people who have their businesses to contribute to the most vulnerable.
“As refugees in TT we have many good things to contribute to this country, I am sure that if we work together with Trinidadians we will give the impetus for TT to rise after the pandemic,” Hernandez said.
This theory is also promoted by Briceno Brown.
She said: “It is enough to observe a Venezuelan, Cuban, Dominican, Cuban, Guyanese or any other nationality that currently lives in TT to realise the effort they make to continue advancing along the paths of life.”
Thousands are refugees in TT, especially Venezuelans and Guyanese who have come to this country seeking better living conditions that their countries of origin do not allow them due to various socio-economic situations.
Here, the vast majority get jobs that are very different from their professions, some receive inhumane treatment from the unconscious, but serve to bring out their resilience and show that they are also human beings.
“There are so many concerns about the situations and problems that refugees are facing right now. Need and confinement have impacted the lives of many of them and their attitudes to adversity show the courage, strength and resilience they have developed to integrate, settle and rebuild their lives,” she said.
Briceno Brown, a community fighter supporting the immigrant community in TT, highlighted even in difficult circumstances there are young people creating stories through their music, martial arts teachers teaching online classes, refugees planting gardens and community gardens, women doing courses training to empower yourself and help others,” said Briceno Brown.
She also highlights the generosity of many local people for each community management of the refugees.
“It is an effort between all of us. Understanding and empathy towards refugees who are also human beings have been fostered, because it has been shown that the good we are more.”
UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) registered last month around 25,000 Venezuelans are refugees in TT, who arrive fleeing the socio-economic and political problems that the neighbouring country has been going through for several years.
In 2019, the government granted an amnesty and work permits to 16,523, who are currently awaiting the renewal of their cards.
However, as a result of the covid19 restrictions, many of them are unemployed and plan to return home.
Last week, Sunday Newsday reported that some 8,000 refugees here registered on three lists for possible repatriation to Venezuela.