Venezuelan helps the fight against COVID-19 in a Brazilian refugee shelter

Ismenia is a 46-year-old Venezuelan who currently lives in the Brazilian city of Boa Vista, where she lives and works in the refugee shelter Rondon 1, which operates with support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She left Venezuela after failing to find adequate medical treatment for her thyroid cancer, leaving behind not only her husband and children but also her career as a nurse.

Currently, Ismenia is part of the Rondon 1 shelter’s health committee. With the new coronavirus, the community leader was recruited by WHO for the noble mission of making sure that other residents of the shelter are following hygiene recommendations against COVID-19.

Ismenia works daily to ensure the protection of those who live in the Rondon 1 shelter. Photo: Tainanda Soares/ACNUR

Ismenia works daily to ensure the protection of those who live in the Rondon 1 shelter. Photo: Tainanda Soares/ACNUR

Ismenia is a 46-year-old Venezuelan who currently lives in the Brazilian city of Boa Vista, where she lives and works in the refugee shelter Rondon 1, which operates with support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She left Venezuela after failing to find adequate medical treatment for her thyroid cancer, leaving behind not only her husband and children but also her career as a nurse.

Ismenia feels that her biggest challenge is to be away from her children and unable to help them overcome their difficulties or take part in their success. According to her, being a mother is the best gift that someone can receive in life.

Ismenia is currently part of the Rondon 1 shelter’s health committee. With the new coronavirus, the community leader was recruited by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the noble mission of making sure that other residents of the shelter are following hygiene recommendations correctly to protect everyone against COVID-19.

The nurse says that the shelter, which holds over 800 people currently, is too big and she rarely leaves the place. Ismenia spends her days at the shelter’s entrance monitoring people who come in or go out, talking about hygiene measures and teaching people to wash their hands properly. “With this project, I can earn money while taking care of people’s physical, psychosocial and emotional health and this is something I love”, she says.

The Venezuelan also leads around 10 elderly people in walks around the shelter while respecting the proper rules of social distancing. “We wake early, at 5 am when everyone else is asleep, and go for a walk. It is a way to help the elderly, who are the most vulnerable (group), while also keeping myself healthy” she adds.

Ismenia underwent treatment for her thyroid cancer in the Brazilian city of Manaus. Her hope is to be able to return to Venezuela and join her family.