Strengthening local collaborations to continue bringing hope through communications

Publication date: Sep 16, 2019 12:23 PM - Last modication date: Sep 25, 2019 02:17 PM
As of September TSF has delegated its local partner AVSI with the coordination of some parts of the project, in order to strengthen local collaborations to continue bringing hope through communications.

TSF’s urgent response to an emerging crisis

It all started in April 2018 at Jardim Floresta, a neighbourhood of Boa Vista, where UNHCR had just opened a shelter for Venezuelan population in Brazil. TSF, eager to palliate the need for communication of the victims of the Venezuelan crisis, deployed for the first time its new Telephony over Internet Protocol (ToIP) solution, specially designed by our IT experts and adapted to all type of humanitarian contexts.

In a humanitarian crisis of such scale, the need for communication of Venezuelan migrants and refugees became so strong that TSF rapidly formed “itinerant teams” composed of Brazilian and Venezuelan staff going from camp to camp, from shelter to shelter, in different areas of the city of Boa Vista to offer free international calls.

They were bringing a little bit of hope and relief to thousands of people, unable to contact their loves ones, to seek employment, or to carry out the necessary administrative tasks for the regularisation of their situation. “For us it is very important that you come, at least once a week so that we can talk to our families” said one migrant at the Servicio Jesuita al Migrante (FSF) camp.  She was pregnant at that time, thus, the possibility to let her family, back in Venezuela, know how she was feeling, meant a lot to her.

Nobody had ever carried out similar operations before. Calls to Venezuela are very expensive and many of them did not even have a phone whatsoever. The youngest would sometimes go far away from the shelter to a Cybercafé, but not all were feeling that adventurous or had the possibility to travel long distances. So, TSF coming to them… “It's a blessing! We don’t have to travel so far anymore just to make a phone call…” says Juan Antonio, almost 70 years old.

Throughout the following months, the crisis didn’t get any better. Each month more and more Venezuelans arrived in Brazil. In collaboration with its local partner AVSI and co-financed by the UNHCR, TSF expanded its operations to the cities of Pacaraima and Manaus at the end of last 2018. This lead to a total of 18 centres covered: 2 permanent humanitarian call centres, 10 shelters and 6 centres supported by 4 mobile teams offering an average of 500 free calls / day.

TSF/AVSI joint efforts to strengthen the future of the project and its impact

TSF firmly believes that empowering local communities and organisations is paramount for a sustainable and effective response to a particular crisis and for the best long-term impact amongst beneficiaries.

With this objective in mind, as of September TSF has delegated its local partner AVSI with the coordination of some parts of the project. Thus, this new collaboration between TSF and AVSI will focus on a more operational involvement from AVSI while TSF will keep on ensuring the overall management of the project, the technical support of its ToIP solution as well as providing remote assistance to the field teams.

This new agreement contributes to a higher level of responsibility and a further understanding of the beneficiaries needs. Additionally, it brings to AVSI a broader technical vision about the Humanitarian Calling Operation.” says Maria Laura Cassiano, Migration and Refuge Programme Manager at AVSI Brazil.

16 months of operations, over 300,000 beneficiaries, over 500 free calls / day, these are the numbers of TSF’s response so far to one of the major humanitarian crises in the history of Latin America… Unfortunately, it is not over yet for the thousands of Venezuelans who left their country in pursuit of a better life. “We hope that AVSI and TSF joint efforts can strengthen the collaboration and continue to guarantee that all beneficiaries in need have access to this service" concludes Maria Laura.