Letters From Venezuela: EatBCH Feeds the Hungry Amid Pandemic and Economic Collapse

TL;DR: Letters from Venezuela is an exclusive CoinSpice series, an inside look from a reporter on the ground, documenting the South American nation’s last stand among sanctions, political unrest, international condemnation and concern, economic collapse, and the specter of cryptocurrency possibly demonstrating its main use case. In this installment, EatBCH, a charity organization feeding the hungry in places like Venezuela and South Sudan, has had to hustle even more in incredibly difficult times.  

EatBCH Keeps Operating Even in Troubled Times

While some have discussed frequently that cryptocurrencies have no real use case, there are several examples that refute those affirmations, and EatBCH is one of them. Founded in 2018 as a result of a series of donations from the r/btc, a Bitcoin Cash-centric subreddit, EatBCH has become a brand that shows the efficacy of cryptocurrencies for getting resources from one place to another without government or bank intervention.

EatBCH

To be clear, it was tough for EatBCH to operate in Venezuela under so-called normal conditions. As most are aware, the Latin American nation is undergoing three conflicts: economic collapse, political strife, and now, the coronavirus pandemic. José (last name redacted), co-founder of the project in Venezuela, has already fed hundreds of Venezuelans.

We caught up with him to get the current status of EatBCH and its work in Venezuela under even worse conditions than when the group started.

Interview with José of EatBCH

CoinSpice: How did EatBCH come about? 

José: After watching our neighbors struggle to find anything to eat, even spending days without a bite of food, we wanted to do something to help. EatBCH started as a way to provide food to those hungry neighbors. Traditional financial systems were almost impossible for us to access due to being Venezuelans. So we saw a real solution by using bitcoin cash as a way to receive donations in a decentralized, borderless, and transparent way. The amazing support we have received enabled us to provide help to other cities throughout the country.

Before, we delivered meals in a specific location and everybody was welcomed to join. Now, we can’t do that. So we had to change the way we operated, and our focus now is to deliver food directly door to door. This also has become a hurdle due to the current extreme gasoline shortage. We have to scrape for every single drop of oil we can find to be able to deliver food to those in need.

With the coronavirus pandemic, so much has changed in the world. How has this pandemic hit Venezuelans and how is EatBCH facing these new difficulties?

Venezuela was already battling with a crippling economy. We were facing shortages, hyperinflation, rampant unemployment, power blackouts, and many other problems. The coronavirus made it much worse. Unlike other countries, Venezuela didn’t have a solid system or safety net for people nor businesses. This worsened the crisis we were already facing.

It even has impacted our efforts to help. Before, we delivered meals in a specific location and everybody was welcomed to join. Now, we can’t do that. So we had to change the way we operated, and our focus now is to deliver food directly door to door. This also has become a hurdle due to the current extreme gasoline shortage. We have to scrape for every single drop of oil we can find to be able to deliver food to those in need.

Are cryptocurrencies simplifying these tasks?

Yes. Recently, there have been increasingly more and more sanctions and restrictions against Venezuelans, preventing us further in taking in the traditional mainstream financial world. Cryptocurrencies, and bitcoin cash especially for us, have not only simplified it but made possible for us to receive and use funds to provide for the neediest.

The gas shortage and quarantine shutdowns have made it more difficult, but thankfully we maintain contact with some suppliers so we always have someone to provide what we need. And we have amassed an amazing team of volunteers that are helping in every way they can, from finding gas to lending us their bikes, to delivering bags of food to their own neighbors’ doors.

EatBCH
José of EatBCH traveled to Washington, DC, explaining to groups about his valuable work.

Are you still getting donations? 

Generally, donations flourish during bull markets and diminish during bear markets. This time has not been the exception. We have seen a reduction in the general volume of individual donations for the past few months but thankfully there have been big donations that have been of immense support. We recently had the honor to be the first campaign to be featured on Flipstarter.cash, a BCH-powered crowdfunding site, and we raised 20 BCH for both EatBCH Venezuela and South Sudan.

What do you think about the future of cryptocurrency usage in Venezuela?

I’m excited about the future of cryptocurrencies in the country. I think it will continue growing, slowly but surely. Cryptocurrencies offer real utility and benefits, from its use and as a remittance vehicle to as a cash alternative. As the benefits and usefulness of crypto become better understood by more and more people, it will become more and more mainstream. There’s still a lot to catch up on, from education to more and better quality services being available like cards, ATMs, exchanges, etc.

Venezuela is already one of the countries that use bitcoin in the world through platforms like LocalBitcoins, but there’s still a need for a push to real-life adoption. Since many can’t afford to invest and buy bitcoin, I believe earning it directly could be a tipping point.

How can people follow your work? 

I’d like to invite everyone to see the work we’re doing at EatBCH in Venezuela and in South Sudan. Despite the hardships, and now with the coronavirus, we are still doing everything we can to help those in need. Every bit of support helps. Stay safe!

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