As students at UF, most of us can relate to late night pajama runs to the nearest Provisions on Demand (POD) Market to grab a few “essentials,” like the totally necessary Ben and Jerry’s ice cream tubs. As residents of the United States, most of us can’t relate to waiting six hours in line outside the nearest grocery store to grab a few essentials, like a carton of milk. According to the LA Times, Venezuela has been facing an economic decline that has led to the world’s highest inflation rate. Producing domestically has become obsolete since factories have been shutting down at dramatic rates and previous successful industries such as the automobile and sugar industries have deteriorated, resulting in the loss of millions of jobs.

Who is suffering the most? Venezuela’s citizens. Basic necessities like toilet paper, sugar, and toothpaste, are experiencing shortages throughout the country, with most of these products having to be imported. However, with oil prices plummeting and productivity scarce, importing these goods has become costly and too expensive for the government to purchase internationally. Venezuelans then must wait long hours each day to even have the slightest chance at obtaining these overpriced goods most of us take for granted. The country is also facing shortages in medicine, leading to healthcare that is not only unaffordable but also unattainable. With shortages in medicine and food, crime has increased at an alarming rate, according to statistics by the OVV.

Photo by: Rufino

Mothers have to pick out their daughter’s burial dress instead of their First Communion dress. Fathers have to protect their sons from getting violently attacked after school for the shoes on their feet. The sick have to wait for medicine that may never come. The Venezuelan people are facing horrors every day that are unimaginable yet preventable.

 As residents of the United States, we have a calling to help less fortunate countries who are struggling. As students at UF, we have the opportunity to help those struggling right now. How? A campus-wide effort encompassing the Venezuelan Student Association (VENSA), PorColombia, Hispanic Student Association (HSA), Hispanic-Latino Affairs (HLA), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and the Catholic Gators Coalition, specifically Nueva Alianza and Restless Heart Communications, have started a campaign to donate items to Venezuela’s citizens and spread awareness on the perils Venezuelans face. The campaign is called Gators for Venezuela

This week, Gators for Venezuela Initiative will host several events that are both extremely fun and extremely charitable. On Monday throughout the day, students heard directly from members of VENSA as they tabled in Turlington to learn more about the campaign, its events, how they can contribute, and they took photos with a sign sporting the hashtag #GatorsforVZLA. That night, people went to Hurley Hall to play good games for a good cause. There was also a donation potluck where people were encouraged to bring food items to send to Venezuela. On Tuesday night, the campaign not only moved to help Venezuelans but also moved to fresh salsa beats. The featured event was Gator Salsa, where guests were encouraged to not only bring their best dancing shoes but also items to donate.

On Wednesday, students will have a range of events to attend.  Students will be able to once again speak to members of VENSA at Turlington from 10 am-2 pm. Students will also be able to munch on some chips and salsa at 8:30 pm before the Holy Hour and prayer vigil at 9:15 pm. On Thursday, the nighttime featured event will be hosted at Omi’s Tavern. All donations will go toward the Medical Drive. Live music, open mic night, great food, and the chance to help Venezuelans also experience an enjoyable, carefree night? Sign me up!

On Friday, a FIFA and Smash Bros. tournament at 5:30 pm will be held at 111 NW 16st St Apt. A-24. There will be a three-dollar entry fee for one game and five-dollar entry fee to participate in both games. On Saturday, the final event will be a pool party from 12pm to 5pm in Gainesville Place Apartment Complex. Bring donations and your swimsuits to send off the campaign in charity and style!

Photo by: tux0racer

 Venezuela needs our help, and this campaign will allow students the opportunity to aid the country’s civilians while also providing fun activities all can enjoy. The campaign encourages everyone to be #GatorsforVZLA and to start making late night runs not only for the totally “necessary” Ben and Jerry’s ice cream tubs we so direly want, but also for the extremely necessary donations the people of Venezuela so direly need.

Written By: Stephanie Sanchez

Featured Image By: Royce Abela, Restless Heart Communications