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From migrant to humanitarian: Ricardo's journey

In the heart of Barranquilla, Colombia, Ricardo Santos embarked on a life-altering odyssey as a migrant. Today, as a Junior Program Manager for Costa Caribe with ZOA, his remarkable journey tells a story of resilience transforming lives through humanitarian work. 

First Steps 

A new home, challenges, and opportunities 

My life story began in Barranquilla, Colombia, where I witnessed the wave of Colombian migrants seeking refuge in Venezuela due to internal violence and hardship in the '70s and '80s. At the age of 7, I joined that wave, embarking on a journey full of dreams and hopes in foreign lands. 

In Venezuela, I had the privilege of receiving education from elementary school to university. I earned degrees in Chemical Processes, Industrial Engineering, and Civil Engineering, all while building a family. Economic challenges in Venezuela and the imminent birth of my daughter prompted a life-altering decision: returning to Colombia. Initially, my plan was to stay for a few months before emigrating again, but fate had a different path in mind. A new path with ZOA and experience in the humanitarian field. One day, fate led me to an online advertisement by ZOA, seeking a WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) officer. I applied, drawing upon my previous humanitarian work in dangerous areas of Venezuela, providing water and sanitation access to indigenous and vulnerable communities. 

In Colombia, I had the chance to give back to the Venezuelans, like me, who had welcomed me years earlier. With ZOA, we improved the living conditions of Venezuelan migrants by providing safe access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. My dedication didn't go unnoticed, and I eventually applied for a higher position at ZOA, becoming the Jr. Program Manager for the Caribbean Region. Now, I lead and contribute to projects that positively impact countless lives in the region. From Barranquilla to my current role, I've faced challenges head-on. Through ZOA's humanitarian work, I've made a real difference in communities.