Yatzil, a mother of 6, has a shy smile. But she talks with her hands, gesturing widely when she tells stories. She describes her home country, Venezuela, with special passion. She’s grateful to Colombia, where her family has found stability since they moved to Barranquilla. But starting over in a new country hasn’t always been easy.

Shortly after they arrived in Colombia, Yatzil learned she was pregnant with her fourth child. She was thrilled to be welcoming another baby into the world. But then, worry set in. After leaving Venezuela’s desperate economic situation and settling in Colombia, she wasn’t sure how she would get health care.

Luckily, one of our community health workers connected Yatzil to Medical Teams, and her despair transformed into hope.

Leaving her beloved country

Before Venezuela’s economic collapse, Yatzil ran successful clothing stalls in a few locations. Her husband worked at a shipping company. Their life in Venezuela was happy — they had a beautiful house, healthy children, and successful careers. Then, the economy crashed.

Yatzil and her husband held onto their life in Caracas for as long as they could. She sold her clothing stalls, moving it to just one location. When her husband lost his job, though, they knew they had to make a change.

“As everything got more difficult, [my husband] had family in Barranquilla who told him to travel to Colombia and they would help us get work,” Yatzil explains.

Still, Yatzil was terrified to leave her beloved country behind. At first, just her husband went to Colombia. He settled in Barranquilla, getting a job washing cars and motorcycles. It couldn’t be more different than what he did in Venezuela, but he was happy to have the work. The separation was hard for the couple, though.

“We missed each other for a year,” Yatzil says, wistfully.

After a year apart, Yatzil and her children made the arduous journey to join him in Colombia. First, they waited for 4 days in a line at the bus station in Caracas just to buy a ticket. Many people were trying to leave Venezuela, and transportation was limited.

Then, Yatzil and her children rode the bus for 12 hours. When they got off at the border between Colombia, they ran on a narrow trail through the jungle. Finally, in Maicao, Colombia, she called her husband to let him know they were in the country.

“In the end, we arrived at 3 in the morning here in Barranquilla,” Yatzil sighs, heavy with the memory of the stressful journey.

Making a home in Colombia

A pregnant woman smiles outside a clinic
Yatzil, pregnant with her sixth child, smiles outside a Medical Teams clinic.

Yatzil was relieved to be reunited with her husband, but their difficulties were just beginning.

“In Venezuela, we had a good quality of life and we never asked for alms,” Yatzil says. “But here it has been our turn…there are things God puts us through to know if one can overcome them.”

After resting in the house her husband had rented, she began selling small items on the streets in Barranquilla. Together, they began to make a life in their new country.

Then, just as they were beginning to get settled, Yatzil realized she was pregnant. Her children are her life’s joy, so she and her family were excited to be welcoming a new little girl. But she was also worried.

Now that Yatzil was so far from home, she wasn’t sure how she would get the prenatal care she knew she needed. Happily, she shared her concerns with another mother at her children’s school, Yasmari Díaz…who happened to be a community health worker for Medical Teams!

“My children studied with Yasmari Díaz’s children,” Yatzil explains. “She told me that there was an organization who registered people to access health services.”

Yatzil was quickly connected to providers who listened to her concerns for her new baby. They helped her get access to health care. Our community health workers rallied around her and her family, supporting them through another life change.

Yatzil welcomes Yesibel

A mother smiles while holding a newborn
Yatzil welcomed Yesibel, her new baby girl, with the help of Medical Teams.

“I find Medical Teams’ services great because I like how they take care of people,” Yatzil says, beaming. “Thanks to this organization, I was able to put myself in control easily and quickly.”

It’s no small thing for a mother to feel like she has some agency over her pregnancy. The dignity of choice when it comes to health care is something every mother — and every person — deserves.

With Medical Teams, Yatzil was able to see a doctor for prenatal check-ups. Support from people like you meant Yatzil could get ultrasounds and exams. She felt ready and excited to meet her new baby girl, Yesibel, when she finally came.

“Everyone in our family has the first initial of “Y” in their name,” Yatzil says, explaining the significance of her daughter’s name. “And also, it’s a combination of my name and that of my older brother who died.”

If Yesibel has even half the strength of her mother, she’s going to live a very happy life! Part of what has helped Yatzil adjust through the sometimes challenging circumstances of her life is her faith. She uses a phrase, pa’lante, often — which loosely translates to “onward” or “keep going” — and trusts in God.

“Here in Colombia it is hard,” she acknowledges. “However, everything in life can be pa’lante, and with the help of God everything can be done.”

Read more about our work in Colombia.

photo of Lauren Hobson


Lauren Hobson
Copywriter & Editor