“We were here in Chapel Hill talking to local people who were from Venezuela, about what they thought about the situation (and) if they had family still living there,” said Brooke Fisher, lead developer for Uprooted.
For the duration of the semester, Mullin and several other students focused on the health and wellness crisis faced by Venezuelans entering Colombia.
Over a spring break trip to Colombia, students told the stories of migrant Venezuelans through interviews, photographs and videos, all of which debuted worldwide on the Uprooted website Tuesday evening.
“Migrants that are coming over to Colombia are facing a number of crises, but in particular, health care is a huge part of that, because if you are a migrant it’s very hard to get health care in a different country, especially in Colombia, and especially as a poor immigrant,” Mullin said.
As students documented these stories throughout their trip, many were overwhelmed by the raw emotions that arose from the interviews and photographs. Several of the students, including lead designer Carlos Salas, are native Venezuelans, and were hit even harder by the stories they uncovered.
“We didn’t necessarily realize how traumatic what we were walking into was going to be, how raw and how powerful these stories were,” Salas said. “There was just a general lack of preparation on our part, knowing what we were getting into.”
Salas has lived in the United States since he was about six years old. Since then, his family has been slowly trying to move out of Venezuela. Currently, his grandfather lives there.
“For me, there was just a general sense of at first what felt like guilt,” Salas said. “For me being Venezuelan and having this privilege to come to a country that feels like home to me, to talk to people who could very well be my own family, and I just really had to approach with a sense of humbleness and humility.”
Salas said throughout the trip he felt a unique connection to the people and the stories they were sharing.
While the students' work is only able to highlight some aspects of this crisis, Mullin hopes it brings awareness to the community as well as an ability to connect with the struggling migrant populations in Colombia.
“It’s a really complicated topic, and it’s something that a lot of people might have heard of, or might be generally aware of,” Mullin said. “But complicated issues like this are best told through the stories of those people experiencing the harm.”
In addition to documenting the hardships faced by countless migrant groups, the students featured individual success stories throughout the project.
“We wanted to highlight that when you come to another country you can become successful, and you can make it,” Fisher said. “There are people there who their lives have turned out for the better.”