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Jun18ThuSalvation Army documentary spotlights work with migrants in South America. June 18, 2020 By Leigha Vegh
(Above) Pedro, Stefani and their children celebrate Brazil’s National Children’s Day
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Displaced is a new Salvation Army documentary that captures the experiences of migrants who have left their countries due to economic and political unrest in hopes for a better life. Co-produced by The Salvation Army’s Brazil Territory, it was filmed on location by International Headquarters’ emergency services and communications teams.
Early on, the film takes us along a poorly maintained road that winds through the Amazonian rainforest in Venezuela, a route often travelled by migrants. For many who can’t afford the fare for the three-hour bus ride to Boa Vista, Brazil, it is an arduous 200-kilometre journey on foot. Some try to hitch a ride, a dangerous practice that makes them susceptible to human trafficking.
About 25 kilometres into the journey, we meet Pedro and Stefani, who are travelling with their four small children, one of whom has a disability. They have no money, few possessions and are extremely fatigued. The family is fleeing Venezuela, hoping to claim refugee status in Boa Vista.
At the Venezuela-Brazil border is a military-led, multi-agency reception centre for refugees called “Project Welcome.” There we meet several people, from all walks of life, including professionals who have left behind their livelihoods: a nurse, a caregiver in need of a prosthetic leg, an out-of-work filmmaker. One heartwrenching interview reveals how a group of young people is faced with two choices of employment: hairdressing or sex work.
The Salvation Army had no pre-existing presence in the region (the nearest Salvation Army location is a four-hour plane ride away) and Displaced emphasizes the need for co-operation between non-governmental organizations to support the large arrivals of migrants. With exclusive rights to film inside United Nations-managed refugee camps and shelters, the film crew gives us a glimpse at the grim reality for many migrants.
But there is joy, too, as The Salvation Army helps Venezuelan families integrate into Brazilian society by marking Dia das Crianças, Brazil’s National Children’s Day. We discover that the family we met on the side of the road earlier has now been transported by The Salvation Army to Boa Vista where they received emergency assistance and, eventually, permanent accommodation, with specialist care for their disabled child.
Elsewhere in the film, we meet Haitian refugees in the south of Brazil, who are integrating into their new community 10 years after the devastating earthquake that forced them to leave their country. Everyone has their own unique story to be told. For some, it’s the hope of a life better than the one left behind; for others, it’s the hope that one day it will be safe enough to return home.
“This is a film for anybody interested in the multitude of issues affecting refugees, asylum seekers and migrants anywhere in the world,” concludes Major Alison Thompson, international emergency services co-ordinator.
Displaced was filmed in October 2019, but The Salvation Army’s work in Brazil continues during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Salvation Army team is providing 125 meals to Venezuelan migrants every day, identifying people for emergency income and assisting with public health efforts.
Watch and download Displaced here: sar.my/displaced.