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“I Brought My Knowledge with Me”: A Venezuelan Making a Difference in the Americas

Maury, like many other Venezuelan migrants and refugees, left her country in the hopes of building a better future for herself and her family. In 2017, she made her way to Chile where she hoped she would be able to continue practicing her medical profession.

She is now fulfilling her life-long dream of helping others by working at a clinic in Santiago, Chile’s capital.

The 52-year-old pneumonologist from the Venezuelan city of Merida decided to leave her home behind when her income as a doctor proved to be too little to support her family due to the country’s tough economic and political situation.

“I could not even afford food for the whole month, so I decided to look for a job in Chile, where I had acquaintances who encouraged me to come,” she explains.

Leaving her two sons and mother behind, Maury understood all too well what hardship and tough work looked like.

Maury, like countless other migrants, left her country in the hopes of building a better life for herself and her family. IOM/Gema Cortés

In the beginning, Maury faced challenges settling into a new culture and climate and had a long process ahead of her to get her medical qualifications recognized in her new host country. She taught online Spanish classes for seven months, while she participated in a course that helped prepare her for the exams that she needed to take in order to be cleared to work in her host country.

“I remember how difficult my first Christmas alone abroad was, and how long the migration procedures were; I had to take 10 different exams. Without an ID card during the first five months, the registration process was not easy,” she recounts.

Maury is one of the hundreds of migrants assisted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with taking their immigration exams and navigating the integration procedures in their host communities.

Chile, one of the wealthiest countries in South America, remains—despite various pandemic-related restrictions—a destination for many Venezuelans looking for better socio-economic opportunities. Around 450,000 Venezuelan nationals currently live in Chile, according to the latest data provided by the country’s migration authorities, making Chile the fourth country in Latin America hosting the most Venezuelans, after Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador.

The Venezuelan doctor loves her job and being able to assist those in need. IOM/Gema Cortés

“When my qualifications were finally certified, I had a lot of satisfaction from a professional and financial point of view,” she recalls. Maury now delivers the same course for other migrants who are in the same situation.

With thousands of medical professionals currently working in Chile and neighbouring countries, providing medical assistance in both cities and hard-to-reach areas, Venezuelan doctors are actively strengthening Latin American health care systems.

Regularization brings benefits not only to those displaced but also to the host communities that welcome them. “I brought my knowledge with me to Chile, but I am also learning things from the country,” she says. “Us migrants, we are making big contributions in this country, in various sectors, from health and culture to gastronomy,” she explains.

Maury is grateful she has had the opportunity to carry out her medical profession in Chile. IOM/Gema Cortés

Maury is one of 7.1 million Venezuelan migrants currently living abroad that have gone on to make a difference in their host country. However, the spiraling cost of living, fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and high unemployment rates have increased the vulnerability of the almost six million Venezuelan migrants currently living in Latin America and the Caribbean and have made it difficult for many to rebuild their lives and integrate in host societies.

IOM is stepping up its efforts to help migrants make use of their skills to find suitable jobs and integrate and contribute to societies and economies in Chile. “In order to play a full role in the social, economic and cultural life of their new host country, migrants need to be able to access the same rights and opportunities as everyone else,” says Richard Custodio Velázquez, IOM Head of Office in Chile.

Like many others, while Maury has found happiness in her new home, she hopes that if Venezuela goes through a drastic transformation, she will one day be able to return. In the meantime, her experience with Chilean patients encourages her to carry on, while her Caribbean empathy makes her patients appreciate her care.

“My melodic Venezuelan accent usually puts a smile on my patients’ faces, even during the most difficult times,” she says.

As much as she loves her new life in Chile. Maury hopes to one day be reunited with her family in Venezuela.IOM/Bryan Brennan

This story was written by Gema Cortés, IOM Media and Communications Officer with the Office of the Special Envoy for the Regional Response to the Venezuelan Situation,