Helping Venezuelan refugees live better lives
Like millions of her fellow Venezuelans, Lala Lovera knows what it is like to build a new life in another country. When she discovered that too many refugees in her new home of Colombia lacked access to adequate food, shelter and education, she launched Fundación Comparte Por Una Vida Colombia (CPUV Colombia). Only four years old, the Foundation has already built a reputation for innovation and impact, particularly in education. That’s why she was recognized as a winner of the 2022 Tällberg-SNF-Eliasson Global Leadership Prize, Emerging Leader category.
Massive movements of people fleeing economic, political, social and climate distress is increasingly a characteristic of our era, with awful consequences for refugees—especially children. Multinational organizations and large NGOs do their best to cope, but often the most effective, innovative approaches are developed by individuals whose humanity drives them to act; that’s the story of Lala Lovera.
New thinking for a new world
In 2016 Lovera was part of a civil society initiative to reduce child malnutrition in Venezuela, but the migration crisis that developed at Venezuela’s border with Colombia forced her to look for broader answers. In 2018 she led a team of Venezuelans and Colombians to launch Fundación Comparte Por Una Vida Colombia whose purpose is to increase well-being and protection for migrants as well as host communities in Colombia. Lovera has led the effort to establish and fund the organization as well as to develop programs tailored to the needs of the Venezuelan diaspora; in the process, she has established an increasingly visible profile as a front-line, hands-on expert on migration.
Transformation in action
The Foundation promotes innovative and sustainable solutions focusing on food security, quality and permanence in education, hygiene and access to water and social integration. This multifaceted approach is particularly aimed at the most vulnerable: infants, girls, young pregnant women, and families at risk. Notably, the programs CPUV Colombia operates in schools benefit both Venezuelan and vulnerable Colombian students.
As bad as conditions were in 2016, by 2020 Covid was making them worse – with shutdowns now preventing children from accessing critical academic and nutritional supports at school. Again, time for innovation. The Foundation launched the online and in-person “Stay in School” initiative to ensure children and families maintained access to nutritional support, learning opportunities, and public and mental health resources amidst the disruption of the pandemic. As a direct result, drop-out rates among students at participating schools declined from thirty percent to just under ten percent—at a time when drop-out rates were soaring across the Americas due to school closures.
Lala also took her leadership to a new scale, playing a vocal role in a coalition of education advocates working to safely reopen schools for all students in Colombia.