Irasmy Salazar, 41, a physician, practiced medicine in her native Venezuela along with her husband, who is also a doctor. This pair of doctors has two children, an 18-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old boy, who has a health condition that requires constant medical attention and care.
Given the significant crisis her country is facing and the resulting shortage of basic products and services, Irasmy’s son began to suffer health complications. In light of this situation, in 2018 the family decided to migrate to Barranquilla, Colombia, where a close friend lived.
Upon arrival to Atlántico’s capital, Irasmy and her husband quickly exhausted their resources looking for employment. They knew they could not practice medicine because the difficulties in their country made it impossible to validate their academic degrees. Because of this, the family started selling pens, black coffee and sweets on the street, always carrying their little son, who required around-the-clock attention.
One of those days working on the city streets, Irasmy met the head nun of a religious foundation, who saw the family’s situation, brought them into the organization, and provided them with temporary housing and food. In return, Irasmy and her husband served as volunteers there, caring for and educating other migrants on health issues. During this volunteering, she began to notice that there was a frequent skin condition among both the adult and children migrants due to sun exposure and friction.
Based on this, Irasmy and her husband started a micro business making therapeutic skin care soaps, called Orquídea Soap (they chose “Orchid” since it is Venezuela’s national flower).
Under the umbrella of the Integrating Horizons livelihood program from PADF and PRM, the process starts with identifying participants that can be empowered through self-employment. Then, thanks to a referral from a civil society organization in the city, the participant is given priority in order to begin the process of psychosocial care, legal guidance, and identification, strengthening and support for her soap manufacturing business.
Irasmy’s production unit (Orquídea Soap) officially started in September 2019 and it operates inside the family’s rented house. The soaps are mainly sold to beauty centers, spas, external customers and neighbors. The income generated is the sole source of support for the family, and currently ranges from $800 to $1,000 a month.
With the support provided by PADF, Irasmy’s production unit is strengthened through trainings in marketing, finance and management, and a process of capitalization for the business is also developed. This all contributes to increasing production capacity, developing her marketing strategy and fostering good conditions that contribute to her and her husband’s well-being, who are the ones in charge of making the soaps.
Irasmy’s family dreams of seeing their soap factory grow and reach more families in Barranquilla. This would be through acquiring production space outside their home, where they can modernize their processes and employ people to help with the production and distribution of the products.
Another of the family’s big dreams is to be able to give back a little of what they have received with the help and support of individuals and foundations since their start in Colombia. This is why they dream of opening their own foundation so other people who come to the country like them with no basic support or services can have access to food, shelter and medical care that will give them the motivation to make their way in Colombia.