At Medical Teams, we believe that loving our neighbors — near or far — is the way forward toward a healthier world. That’s why our guiding scripture is Luke 10:27: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

It’s that last part, “And love your neighbor as yourself,” that so many people in this incredible community embody. They’re people like you, who support Medical Teams. And they’re people like Margri.

Few people set a better example for how to love their neighbor than Margri. Her warmth, compassion, and kindness are easy to see! To Margri, “love your neighbor” isn’t just a saying. It’s a way of life. Her faith and fierce love for her family brought her to Colombia, but it’s the community she connected with that keeps her motivated.

Margri says,

“Being a volunteer has brought me closer to my neighbors, to people that feel like my family.”

Her journey to becoming a community health volunteer with Medical Teams in Colombia wasn’t easy. In fact, it’s been marked by periods of deep grief and loneliness. But Margri is an emblem of how to find hope after hardship. She loves her neighbors not because the road has been smooth for her, but because it hasn’t been — she knows how hard it can be to start over in a new country.

Her belief that no one should walk alone is what “love your neighbor” really means. Watch Margri’s story below, and find out how you can love your neighbor too!

Leer en español

Meet Margri

See Margri’s story come to life in this video!

As you can see from Margri’s video, she has a smile that lights up a room. But her decision to move to Colombia was a heartbreaking one.

Margri says, “What brought me to Colombia the most was that I had no medicine for my son. My son is disabled. He had no support…we had no way to buy medicine. In fact, you couldn’t find it in Venezuela. And that is why it was my decision to come.”

Watching her children suffer was a breaking point for her. In the months leading up to her decision to move to Colombia, she lost her job as a pre-school teacher and elder caretaker. Her family went without food. She did everything within her power to meet her family’s needs in Venezuela. Her only hope for a better quality of life was across the border in Colombia. But her husband wasn’t supportive of the choice. He didn’t want to leave Venezuela.

As the situation in Venezuela worsened, food, money, and medicine became harder and harder to come by. Her son’s condition declined. Her family was in great need. Margri knew she had to take matters into her own hands.

Margri says,

“The decision was to fight for my children, but I was afraid. I had never left my country, but I wanted to fight.”

Margri’s story is all too common. Every day, hundreds of Venezuelan people cross the border into Colombia. Like Margri, they’re driven by extreme food and medicine shortages, and political instability that’s led to violence. And similarly, they’re all hoping for the opportunity to make a better life in Colombia — one where they can access basic necessities, like health care, food, and jobs.

Life and loneliness in Colombia

Though she’s come a long way, Margri’s first months in Colombia were incredibly challenging.

Margri says, “When I arrived here in Colombia, I was overcome with sadness to leave my children, which I had never done before. I only decided to continue because I wanted to fight to be able to get my son the medicine, and to be able to help them with money so that they could eat.”

She describes the early days of selling water on the street for 15 hours at a time. Even when her feet developed painful blisters and swelled, she persisted. What she found most distressing though was not having a support network of family or friends. Her days were marked by deep loneliness and grief.

Finding happiness in Colombia was a long road for Margri. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Margri overcame obstacle after obstacle while navigating her new country in part because of her faith.

She says,

“The faith that I have is something that motivates me — it motivates me to keep fighting for what we want. For what we can achieve. That’s why I continue trusting in God, that everything will be all right. That we are going to get out of this situation.”

While she was working in Colombia, Margri’s marriage ended. Eventually, she was able to bring her 3 children to live with her in Colombia. Sadly, though, her son struggled to adapt — he was bullied and beaten up in school.

With a regretful heart, Margri made another painful choice. It was time for her son to return to Venezuela to live with his grandparents. The economic situation in Venezuela is still unstable, so Margri continues work in Colombia to send money to support him. She’s grateful she can help him, but it’s an impossible circumstance. Alongside her hope for the future, she grieves daily.

Finding purpose and belonging in volunteering

Like  many people around the world, Margri was lonely. It doesn’t take a new country to feel isolated — more people than ever before feel disconnected from their communities. But Margri knew that the key to her happiness was with her neighbors.

That’s when she found Medical Teams. She applied 3 times to volunteer in our community health program, but each time, a doctor was given priority. Often, people from Venezuela come to Colombia and are unable to work in their professions despite their experience and education. Venezuelans who were doctors or nurses in their former country look to volunteering as a way to fulfill their calling to care.

Margri shares information about health care access with her neighbor. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Margri was just as eager to love her neighbors.

“I wanted to be a volunteer with Medical Teams because I like being able to help,” Margri says. “I like sharing with neighbors and knowing Medical Teams is helping my countrymen. I like to teach them that we can move forward together.”

As a community health volunteer, Margri regularly visits people in her community. She seeks out neighbors who need help finding medical care and shares health messages. Through Margri, and other volunteers like her, people are connected to our hygiene voucher program and health education.

She says,

“I have felt their support toward me as well, and that has changed my life completely.”

Most importantly, Margri finds purpose and belonging in her ability to help other migrants like herself. She provides loving support to other Venezuelans navigating their own transitions to Colombia.

Margri revels in the sense of community she has among the other volunteers and those she serves. She found new friends who are like sisters. She found shared faith and a sense of hope.

Margri poses with other volunteers and staff in Colombia. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Margri loves her neighbors (and they love her!)

Margri’s volunteer work has helped her feel less alone in Colombia. Though she still misses her son, her connection to her community has helped her heal from the loneliness she experienced when she first moved to Colombia.

But it isn’t just Margri who benefits from her volunteering. Margri’s work means so much to those she serves, like Naylin, a mother in Margri’s community.

Margri loves her neighbor, Naylin, and the two have become fast friends. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Naylin says,

“Since I met her, she has become a blessing for me and for my children because she is always looking out for me. 24/7. Yes, literally.”

Naylin’s family moved to Colombia after one of her daughters nearly died from dengue fever in Venezuela when they were unable to get medicine for her. Naylin, like Margri, was deeply affected by the move and felt the same deep loneliness and isolation. Margri knocked on Naylin’s door one morning and the rest was history. Naylin feels Margri was a Godsend.

“Margri, I really bless her very much,” Naylin says. “She’s an excellent woman, she’s like my sister. She’s very attentive to me and my children.”

Looking to the future with faith

Margri’s found a sense of belonging as a community health volunteer that makes her life in Colombia possible. Today, she’s supporting her youngest daughter, Ashley, who lives with her. She wants to see her grow up and finish school. Margri’s eldest daughter also lives independently in Colombia.

Margri hugs her daughter, Ashley, in their home in Colombia. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Margri says,

“My dream is for my children. For them to continue studying and bettering themselves. For them not to look back, not to think about the past, to always think about their future. To improve themselves, not to think about what I was or what we are, but about what we will be. May they be happy.”

Margri’s hope is a testament to her strength and resilience. After so much hardship, Margri still believes in a bright future. She still finds ways to give back to her community. She still loves her children, God, and her neighbors.

Love your neighbor like Margri does

Margri loves her neighbors, and you can too! Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

Margri is exceptional — not many people have the courage and strength she does! But the emotional resonance of her story is familiar. Many people have made sacrifices for their families, or felt the grief of making a hard decision to do what’s right for their children. Many more of us have likely felt similar feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s an epidemic, after all.

That’s why loving your neighbor is more important than ever. We can all love our neighbors like Margri does. Whether it’s a smile and wave while taking out the garbage can on an early morning, volunteering at a local organization, or donating a few spare dollars — finding belonging in a community is there for all of us.

Take a page from Margri’s book and love your neighbor today! Give a gift to make volunteer programs like Margri’s possible.