On March 18, the student-led fundraising platform Yakera, founded by Raul Romero ’22 to help Venezuelans who are suffering from the current humanitarian crisis, launched 32 new fundraising campaigns. These campaigns are part of Yakera’s pilot program, and are focused on supporting Venezuelans in education, healthcare and small business.
Because of constraints put in place by the Venezuelan regime, aid organizations are not able to operate freely within the country and, as a result, people who are struggling cannot receive the help they need. Additionally, other crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter are not accessible to Venezuelans because of international sanctions and barriers to entry. Yakera is the first crowdfunding organization that allows individuals to receive donations and cash aid directly, according to Romero.
“This is an issue that we’re solving,” he said.
According to Romero, Yakera successfully completed its first campaign in January, around the time they began fundraising to launch the pilot.
The launch of this large pilot program was made possible through initial contributions of $4,630, according to Yakera’s website. The pilot itself aims to raise $16,000 worth of aid between all 32 campaigns, to be transferred directly to the recipients.
Romero noted that the pilot is intended to test a number of key factors that will determine how to continue developing the platform. “What we’re trying to see here is measuring key performance indicators associated with it, test the product market fit and see how much of a change it can generate in people’s lives,” he said.
Once they complete the pilot program, Romero said that the Yakera team will use the data they gathered to build an argument in support of Yakera’s existence as an organization, in order to secure grant funding from foundations, tech accelerators, individual donors and other organizations in order to continue developing the platform.
This funding and platform development will help expand Yakera’s services to provide aid to more Venezuelan individuals. Specifically, Romero noted that the team plans to develop their own login and vetting system so that Venezuelans can create their own campaigns, rather than have each campaign vetted through a local partner as in the current system.
In particular, Romero highlighted the story of a father who traveled to Colombia from Venezuela in order to make ends meet as a farmer, but was fired when there was a drought. He went to Peru for work, but when COVID-19 hit, he had no choice but to walk all the way back to Venezuela. With the money raised through Yakera, he and his family are hoping to open a small business to support themselves.
“We’re helping people,” Romero said. “The stories are very heartbreaking, but also full of resilience.”
Romero emphasized that the success of the pilot run depends on those who donate to fund the campaigns, and called on the Kenyon community to contribute what they can.
“If everyone on campus, which is about 1,000 people, donated $16, we could complete all the campaigns and actually achieve this milestone,” Romero said. “At this point and at this stage, now more than ever, we need the support of the Kenyon community to make this possible.”