Brazilian Don José Sebastião Barros da Silveira and Argentine don Miguel Alberto Fernández, Orionini (Piccola Opera della Divina Provvidenza), arrived in Pacaraima, Brazil, diocese of Roraima, to help the local parish priest, Fr Jesús Lopez Fernandez de Bobadilla, 78-year-old Spanish fidei donum missionary, to assist thousands of Venezuelan refugees fleeing their country every day.
Pacaraima in fact borders with Venezuela and is the main access route by land to Brazil. Called “Heart without borders”, this new mission of the Orionines proposes to welcome and support the numerous Venezuelan refugees, men, women and children, who come here and need everything.
It is estimated that at least 6,000 immigrants pass through Pacaraima every day. Some stop and wander through this small town in total misery, others leave for Boa Vista, capital of the state of Roraima, which is 220 km away. Along the way there is not even a village or a town, so the refugees have no place to rest or eat, they sleep on the side of the road.
“A few hours after my arrival in Boa Vista – says Don José Sebastião Barros da Silveira together with Bishop Mgr. Domário we crossed the city and in the evening we took part in the ceremony for the delivery of certificates to 50 Venezuelans who completed the basic Portuguese course. The following day I went to visit four reception centers where there was a large crowd of Venezuelan refugees.
According to the most accredited estimates, Boa Vista alone currently has more than 25 thousand Venezuelans”.
“It is sad to see – adds the priest – men and women who sell garlic, crockery and many other products on the streets and sidewalks, while teenagers wash the windshield of cars at the traffic lights for a few coins.
Many of them studied, they have already finished college in their country. Everyone is hoping to find a new life in São Paulo … “.
“On Saturday evening – he continues – after a long journey I arrived in Pacaraima. Here I found hundreds of people sleeping on rudimentary hammocks. On Sunday we celebrated four Masses with the participation of the indigenous peoples and the Venezuelans”.
Don José Sebastião explains that at 3 am the volunteers start to prepare breakfast for the refugees, which is served from 5 to 7.30am. “In Paracaima there are 1,300 Venezuelans and indigenous who come for breakfast.
For many of them it is the only meal of the day – he underlines -. Here it rains a lot and it is cold. The city is poor, hygiene is lacking, the streets are invaded by a crowd of immigrants wandering everywhere”.