The Simón Bolívar Foundation, the 501(c)(3) non-profit, private foundation of CITGO Petroleum Corporation, held an educational and networking event for the Houston community regarding the public health situation in Venezuela. The event featured keynote addresses from two public health experts: Dr. Marino J. Gonzalez R. of the Universidad Central de Venezuela and Dr. Karla Fredricks of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

“There are so many incredible people in Houston who are working tirelessly to help the sick and suffering in Venezuela,” said Luisa Palacios, chairwoman of CITGO Petroleum Corporation’s Board of Directors. “Our goal is to create a platform for doctors, dentists, non-profits, hospitals, academia and Houston’s Venezuelan diaspora so we can work together toward an even greater impact.”

Dr. Gonzalez addressed the crowd about the conditions on the ground in Venezuela, similar crises it has overcome in the past and – most importantly – what the Houston community can do to be of the most help.

“We’re here now because we want to share our knowledge and experience to work together to transform the Venezuelan health system,” said Dr. Gonzalez. “While the immediate need is food, medicine and supplies, for the longer term, the most important thing we can do is to create and communicate knowledge.”

Dr. Fredricks, meanwhile, concentrated her presentation on local health resources available for Venezuelan immigrants through Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, and various community organizations. She also offered a glimpse of best practices in global health, describing how her institution’s Salud y Autosuficiencia Indigena en La Guajira (SAIL) program in northern Colombia improves health outcomes for both Colombians and displaced Venezuelans in that region.

“With the expectation that the number of Venezuela immigrants in the United States will continue to increase this year, our Program for Immigrant and Refugee Child Health (PIRCH) is working to help ensure these children and families in Houston have access to high-quality health services,” said Dr. Fredricks. “At the same time, our SAIL program is carrying out a similar mission for a small population of Venezuelans in Colombia,” she concluded.

Nearly 90 people attended the event, representing a broad cross-section of the Houston community. The event successfully connected philanthropic individuals to organizations that can positively impact the situation on the ground in Venezuela. The Simón Bolívar Foundation plans to continue growing the platform with more events in the near future.

“The Foundation is well positioned to support the Houston community’s efforts to bring aid to the people of Venezuela,” said Larry Elizondo, president of the Simón Bolívar Foundation. “Our network, infrastructure and staff give us the ability to help organize and amplify the Houston community’s efforts. We see this as a galvanizing moment for the cause.”