DORAL, Fla. - U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) teamed up with the mayor of Doral Friday to honor a woman and her organization, which is helping those who are fleeing to South Florida from Venezuela.
"They're coming because they want to live in freedom," Patricia Andrade told Local 10 News.
Andrade's mission is to help families who are seeking political asylum in the United States from Venezuela.
"We live off donations and give for free because the Venezuelans are short of money," she said.
The Venezuela Awareness Foundation, known as Raices, works out of a storage facility in Doral. It's also where they keep the many items they collect through the help of donations.
Raices has four storage units full of supplies, bed linens, appliances and other items to help people start a new life in the U.S.
"Every unit is $345 a month," Andrade said.
The group seeks to help Venezuelan immigrants integrate into American life, defend the victims of human rights violations and provide aid for those in need.
"Getting used to the new culture, making sure your kids have a good future, making sure you have a job," Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez said.
"We get around 100 people per day," Andrade said.
David Bavaresco, a 21-year-old martial arts champion and vocal critic of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, is among those whom the group has helped.
"We don't have food. We don't have human rights. We don't have medicines for people who are dying," he said.
Bavaresco and his family came to South Florida to escape the crisis in their country.
"I'm starting to work and compete. At first it was hard, but it's now more stable," he said.
With the situation in Venezuela worsening, asylum claims are reaching record numbers.
According to the Pew Research Center, Venezuelans account for 10,221 asylum applications filed between October 2015 and June 2016, which is up from 3,810 filed during the same time period the year before.
Andrade and her movement received an honor Friday from the office of Diaz-Balart, recognizing her tireless work to help other Venezuelans.
"It's an honor as a Venezuelan-American. It's an honor," Andrade said.
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