When Naylin came to Colombia nearly 6 years ago, she felt lonely and isolated. Though her decision was motivated by her desire to keep her family healthy, trying to make a new life in a new country without a network of family and friends proved difficult.

Then, someone loved her like the neighbor she is. Margri, a community health volunteer with Medical Teams, knocked on her front door one day and changed the course of her life.

Naylin says,

“I felt blessed when Medical Teams came here because I could get services for my family.”

At Medical Teams, we believe loving your neighbor is the way forward to a healthier world. “Love your neighbor” does more than connect us to our communities — it shows the people in our communities that they matter. When we love a neighbor like Naylin, the world becomes a better place. Our neighbors — people like Naylin — shouldn’t walk alone.

Read on to hear more from Naylin and her family, and find out how you can love a neighbor like Naylin, too!

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Meet Naylin

Watch Naylin’s incredible story in the video below! 

It’s easy to see from Naylin’s video that it’s been a long road for her and her family. Naylin moved to Colombia 6 years ago with her husband and 2 youngest children, both daughters. Her older children, both sons, are back home in Venezuela. With evident pain, she explains how the boys are living back home with their grandparents.

She describes the obstacles of life in Venezuela, where she worked in a bakery and lottery agency. Due to the severe economic crisis, every day was a challenge. She experienced great difficulty getting her family’s basic needs met.

“In Venezuela, there is a huge lack of food and medicine,” she says. “If you take someone to the hospital, they could die because there are no medicines, and everything is very expensive.”

During her most recent pregnancy, Naylin went 3 days without eating in Venezuela. Her children became malnourished. They all came down with dengue fever, and one of her daughters became severely ill. Naylin was terrified. She took her daughter to the doctor, but only by the grace of God did she recover.

Getting her daughters health care was Naylin’s goal in Colombia. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Naylin says,

“That’s when I decided to say, ‘No, I’m going to Colombia because my daughters are going to die here.’ It was a very difficult moment.”

Naylin describes the painful decision to leave her home to save her young daughters. Sadly, this kind of decision between who goes and who stays is all too common. Families often are forced to make the heart-wrenching choice to leave behind older children to find work in Colombia, or, like Naylin, bring the ones whose health is at risk.

The heartbreak Naylin feels from her separation from her sons is evident in her voice. She was faced with an impossible decision – to risk the lives of her young daughters by staying in Venezuela, or leaving her sons by moving to Colombia.

Starting over in Colombia

Naylin says, “It was very hard when I got here. I was depressed and really missing my sons. But the priority was to get my daughter well.”

The journey to Colombia was harrowing. Naylin and her family took a bus with other migrants on an informal route, but it was stopped and robbed along the way. They arrived in Colombia with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

“It was quite hard when we arrived here,” she repeats. “We didn’t even have a bed or a fan. We slept on the floor. It was quite difficult, and we had to recover psychologically and emotionally.”

naylin hugs her daughter
Naylin hugs one of her daughters, Aranza. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Still, Naylin was focused on her daughters’ health. She was encouraged to see things were different in Colombia. She brightens when she describes the opportunity available to them.

“When I arrived here, I saw the food, and I said, ‘My God!’ I was very excited to see the flour, the diapers…because in Venezuela there’s nothing. I miss my mom and sons. I miss my country. But I’m grateful to Colombia.”

The availability of basic needs was an encouragement. Yet life in Colombia still wasn’t easy. Naylin and her family experienced discrimination from some Colombians because they’re Venezuelan. It was hard to find work and housing. Without other options, Naylin and her husband said yes when a friend offered shelter in an abandoned home.

The reality of living where they do though has proved challenging. It’s affected their health. Naylin and her family often have colds, or difficulty recovering from coughs. Lately, Naylin’s mental health has been impacted too. She’s experiencing anxiety and depression, and having panic attacks.

She wasn’t sure where to turn, until a neighbor knocked on her door.

The blessing of Margri and Medical Teams

The morning Margri, a Medical Teams community health volunteer, came to check on Naylin and her daughters would be a turning point for Naylin’s family. With the help of Margri and Medical Teams, Naylin was able to access health care for her daughters.

She says, “When I met Medical Teams, my youngest girl was ill with a fever. They registered us and got us an appointment to be seen. It was a huge blessing because no one attended to us in the past.”

It’s hard to picture not being able to see a doctor when your child is sick. But that’s exactly what Naylin and her husband faced.

Margri and Naylin became fast friends through Medical Teams. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Visits from community health workers — volunteers like Margri — are a big part of the support system provided by Medical Teams to Venezuelans like Naylin in Colombia. These community volunteers seek out and provide support to their neighbors in need. They understand firsthand the challenges of living in a place that is not your home.

When Naylin talks about Margri, her face lights up. The impact that Margri has had on her life is clear!

Naylin gushes,

“Margri has become like my sister. She is a huge blessing. For me, Margri is a warrior. Words are not enough to describe her. She is a wonderful person. She is someone I can look up to.”

For many people, especially mothers like Naylin, the regular care and visits help create a sense of belonging and community. A refuge amid her daily troubles. A sense of home away from home. A friend in time of need.

Love a neighbor like Naylin

Neighbors like Naylin and her family need health care. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

“Love your neighbor” might feel abstract as a commandment, but the impact is concrete. When Margri loved her neighbor, Naylin, it changed both of their lives. Margri feels keenly the joy of community, the deep friendship of another mother away from home, and the opportunity to give back. Naylin has been able to access health care for her daughters, find a friend who offers wise counsel, and feel connected to her community.

When we love our neighbors, the world feels less alone. Our guiding scripture, Luke 10:27, speaks to this — loving our neighbor is a way of living out God’s care for each of us.

You can love a neighbor like Naylin too! Your gift today helps families like Naylin’s get access to health care around the world.