According to Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of January 2020, the country had already hosted between 400,000 and 500,000 Venezuelans who fled their home country to seek better living conditions elsewhere. Ecuador hosts the third largest number of displaced Venezuelans, after Colombia and Peru. Many work as informal street vendors, and their businesses were hurt by the COVID-19 lockdown measures.
In response, AVSI Ecuador reoriented the UNHCR-funded Activados project, supporting the most vulnerable families by distributing food, clothes, and helping them in case of a health or housing emergency. We also looked for innovative ways to encourage the economic reactivation of Venezuelan migrants and refugees, as well as Ecuadorian families affected by the health emergency. One such way was through emergency business models, like manufacturing face masks and cloth bags. Using an emergency business model, we gave seven families equipment and supplies to start the business, such as sewing machines, fabrics, and other sewing materials. We also accompanied them in organizing production and identifying market channels.
These families sold 2,450 bags for hygiene kit deliveries, generating their first income through this new business. Their first client was COOPI, an international NGO that implements projects near the border with Peru.