On Sept. 28, Yakera — an online crowdfunding platform created by Raul Romero ’22 — will launch a newly redesigned, user-friendly website and transition out of a pilot program to become an accredited nonprofit organization.
In 2020, Romero launched the platform to support individuals and organizations in Venezuela, campaigning for improvements in education, healthcare and support of small businesses. The platform aims to provide aid to Venezuelans affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Yakera, which means gratitude in Warao — an Indigenous language in Venezuela — gives cash aid directly to people in Venezuela through donations.
So far, Yakera has served 30 families and raised a total of approximately $10,000 during its pilot program.
Romero is excited for other new features to roll out soon. In less than two months, there will be a hub on the website where donors can track their donations and connect with the recipients via social media. Additionally, Yakera will be launching a new virtual reality (VR) experience, through which donors can view the individual stories in VR.
Currently, there are a number of sanctions placed on incumbent Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and his administration. Maduro won an election in 2018, but many, including the United States government, claim that the election was rigged and consider opposition leader Juan Guaidó the legitimate interim president.
Romero, who grew up in Venezuela before attending high school in the United States, realized that the international restrictions placed on Venezuela presented challenges for other fundraising platforms, such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter. He founded Yakera to address these challenges.
“What we are trying to solve is the efficiency and the issue of distribution, and also giving people the empowerment. We believe that they know their needs better than we do,” Romero said.
In order to give control of financial distribution back to Venezuelans, Yakera users must apply for aid through the nonprofit’s approval process. Venezuelans must apply for aid in one of four areas: nutrition, healthcare, education and small businesses. “Our vetting is even more thorough than other existing platforms,” Romero said.
Once approved, people can create a campaign where they share their story and their intended use for the funding. Donors can then give money to individuals through Yakera’s platform. Yakera will transfer the money via AirTM to the requester’s account, and they can then choose to withdraw the money or spend it directly on goods and services in Venezuela. Yakera will ask the recipient to prove that they purchased the goods or services that they applied for.
The redesigned website will launch in Spanish on Sept. 28, and the English website will be released a week later. Romero hopes to have all of the new features online within the next two months. “There’s a lot coming, and I’m really excited about where we’re headed,” he said.