DENVER — Four months ago, Alexander and Meilyn decided to undertake the journey to the United States with their 10-year-old son Angelo.
The family is from Venezuela, where since 2016 many people have been fleeing their home country in search for more stability due to violence, threats, poverty and the challenge in finding basic life necessities.
This week, Alexander and Meilyn arrived with their son in Denver. For the first time, they said they have truly been able to rest without fear.
"We had a long time without resting for about four months," said Alexander, in his Native Spanish language.
They began in Chile, where they had been living for a few years. The family journeyed through 11 different countries over four months. They were able to take trains or buses in some locations, but the large majority was on foot, especially in the beginning.
"(We were) just walking and being very careful of the many cartels, a lot of drug trafficking, any number of things," Alexander said. "You find people who steal, who rape, who kill. It is very dangerous."
Venezuelan family describes difficult journey to Denver
The most dangerous part of the journey is through Panama's Darién Gap. The family took a boat from Necoclí, Columbia into the Darién Gap, which is almost entirely jungle.
"We had to pass through, the river, swamp, mud, rain, rivers. The experience was really intense," said Alexander, who also said their journey through the jungle lasted for 10 days.
"It’s like an excursion but more chilling," Meilyn said. "Many people had already died, and many people were dying."
From start to finish, the journey felt like a test to the family. While Alexander said that he never had any doubts, Meilyn said she almost lost hope after the most difficult part.
"I had a moment in Costa Rica, let’s say what I had is a breaking point," she said. "Why is this such a hard test? But something inside always tells you to fight. You can - Let’s go. If you have already passed the difficult part, then you change your way of thinking, feeling. You can accomplish it. I know that nothing is impossible in this world."
They were able to get a train from Monterrey to Ciudad Juárez, where they finally made it across the US-Mexico border into El Paso, Texas.
"I cried with joy and emotion, thanking God in an awesome way," Meilyn said.
While the family is focusing on resting now, they said they hope to receive asylum. It's their first goal now that they've made it into the United States.
"Our first objective here would be able to try to legalize our situation, get a good lawyer to help us with that and work and fight for a good future for our child and have peace of mind," Alexander said. "Peace, above all, we want to be in a safe place. We couldn’t achieve that in our own country."
They said that all of the risk they took was for their son, Angelo. They hope that coming to the U.S. means they will be able to settle without fear and find a future for their family.
“He was our little warrior," Meilyn said. "He never got tired. The one who never fainted. He was always strong and very brave."
Finding temporary shelter
The family found a spot at the emergency shelter set up this week at Regis University. They have the ability to house up to about 50 people. All of them are families from Venezuela and all of them have other final destinations in mind. This is just another stop along the way.
"First of all, it is a humanitarian crisis," said Dr. Salvador Aceves, president of Regis University. "We recognize that this is really challenging situation. We definitely are committed to continuing to provide the kind of assistance and support to our community."
The institution received an inquiry about emergency housing this past weekend, and received the initial confirmation call on Monday. By that evening, the university was welcoming families in time for dinner.
"Our focus really was to provide the shelter, to provide the food and really prepare them for their next step, Aceves said. "Yes, I would say that the joy and just knowing that they had a safe place to not only be welcome but also spend a week with us was also very much welcome by the families."
Part of welcoming the families in is also showing the students at the school what it means to live up values and their mission.
"It certainly has been a very challenging and very difficult period for these families," Aceves said. "I would say that this gives us comfort to see the resilience of the human spirit and what we hope to be able to do is to provide an opportunity for these families to settle."
In order to continue providing resources to the families, Regis is in need of monetary donations as the priority. They are also looking for some additional items such as clothing, lotion and gloves that could help the families. You can donate here.
They are also looking for fluent Spanish-speakers to volunteer and aid the families.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove the last names of migrants to that this story does not interfere with the asylum process.
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