A group of five friends carry large backs and walk the streets at night to find a place to stay.

Photo Journey

A Family, Together

A family struggles to survive, having arrived in Medellín ten days prior.

After traveling hundreds of miles on foot, a group of five Venezuelans, who together call themselves a family, arrived in Medellín on February 27th. Before leaving their homes, they all held different, honest jobs including food service and hair care but were all laid off over the course of the last year due to a crumbling economy. Now in Colombia, the family works 15 hour days asking for money in exchange for small candies on the street in order to make enough money to afford food and a tiny room to sleep in each night.

A man holding a neon orange sign, with his belonging around him, is seen through another mans legs

Michael Sanchez holds up a sign reading, “Hola Amigos somos Venezolanos en busca de un mejor futuro. pueden colaborarnos con algo comida o dinero estariamos muy agradecidos dios les bendiga y les multiplique. ‘Amen’ Gracias.” This translates to “Hi, we are Venezuelans in search of a better future. can you help us with some food or money we would be very grateful god bless you and multiply on you. ‘Amen’, thanks.” He does this while sitting on a bench near San Antonio metro station that was marked as the family’s “home base” for the day as they split up to try and make enough money to afford a place to sleep at night.

Two women show a man small candy they are giving out while he grips money

Génesis (near left) and Yuneda (back left) count out how many pieces of candy to sell to a man who stopped to give them money. They are not technically selling candy because they would need a vending license. Instead people give them donations and they offer small candy as a thank you in return. Some people choose to take the candy while others are happy to simply help.

A woman is seen between to other people as they all look to hand out candy while two men sit on a bench and count money.

Génesis Moreno (back, middle) attempts to sell small candies while Yuneda Nelo (front, left) and Michael Sanchez (front, middle) talk about where to stand to best make money. At the same time Carlos Gabedes (near right) and Jonelle Gabedes (far right), count their money to see how much they will need to make that day to afford a small room for the five of them to sleep in that night. Carlos splits from the group completely each day to sell candy at an intersection in a different region of the city, Poblado, in hopes of bringing in additional income.

Two men sleep under a bench during sunset

Jonelle (left) and Michael take a nap under the bench the family has spent the entire day around. The men in the family receive significantly less donations than the women so they normally spend time keeping watch of their belongings on the bench and napping.

A man holds his girlfriend affectionately from behind and they both laugh

Jonelle holds and kisses his girlfriend, Yuneda, at the end of the night. Although each day is full of hardship and struggle, there are still plentiful moments of joy, happiness and love. These tender moments reveal the strength and resilience of the human spirit and prove that love and life continue to push the family forward.

Two people count out coins in a clear plastic cup at night

Génesis (left) and Michael do a final count of the money they collected during the day. On this particular day the family made enough money to afford a room for the night. The family also discussed starting to put money aside when possible to try and eventually afford a monthly housing situation.

A woman rests on a backpack on the sidewalk at night.

Génesis rests on their pile of belongings while they wait for Carlos to return to the bench at the end of the night. Genesis is on her feet upwards of 15 hours a day trying to make enough money to survive. This is the first time she has been able to lie down and rest all day.

Three men and two women carrying walk down a sidewalk at night while carrying many bags

(From left) Michael, Yuneda, Jonelle, Génesis and Carlos carry all their belongings down the street as they walk to the shelter they stayed in the previous night in an effort to once again purchase a room. In order to get there, they must carry their bags through one of the more dangerous parts of the downtown area where the black market operates.

A man and a woman stand in a dimly lit green hallway

Génesis (left) and Jonelle wait in the hallway to see if there is any room left in the inquilinato for them to spend the night. An inquilinato is a small shelter where people can pay for a small room on a nightly basis. The hallways are dimly lit and reveal bare wires, cracked walls and copious amounts of dirt. The small rooms each come with a twin mattress, small nightstand, dresser and black and white box TV that usually takes a few firm hits to get functional.

A family of five sits in a small and unkempt rented room

Carlos (center) watches TV while Jonelle and Yuneda kiss in the corner of the bed and Michael and Génesis rest on a thin foam mattress they share each night on the remaining floor space. The rest of their belongings are stacked on the nightstand or tucked up against the walls.

A man is silhouetted as he walks down the street

Jonelle Gabedes walks down the street alone in the morning to go back to the shelter to retrieve a bag they left behind the night before.

A woman looks off to the right during sunset

Yuneda Nelo looks off into the sun as she sits on the family’s usual bench. The long days leave plenty of time for introspection and deep thought. Yuneda expressed that she often thinks about if life is actually better in Colombia. They all left lives behind to come in search of something better. But the question remains, is this truly an improvement?