Living outside of one’s country can be stressful – the language, money, customs and living conditions are different from where most boaters grew up – no matter what country we are from or where we are cruising in the world. So for those of us staying at Venezuela’s popular cruising marina, Bahia Redonda in Puerto la Cruz, it is most important to have an “angel” to assist us on our way. Anne Robinson is just such a gal; since having taken over the Mini-Mart two years ago, Anne has been the leader for Fundamigos, a surgical program helping babies and children, the Swap Shop, and the Lending Library. She also runs a clothing bank for the homeless and disabled, takes care of rental apartments for those of us who are hauled out or have visiting guests, and is the local agent for filling gas tanks, air-conditioners, fire extinguishers and life raft servicing.
Anne, who hails from northern England, sailed across the Atlantic with her husband Chris on a 26’ Clinker Sloop, Starlight of Mersea some 35 years ago. Headed for New Zealand from Antigua, the couple ran into trouble on a cloudy night when they were unable to take a star shot; unfortunately they went on the rocks in La Aves, Venezuela. Rescued by friends, they were taken to Caracas where they met Ambassador McClintock from the American Embassy, who helped them by finding Chris a job in the oil industry. Since that time, Anne has lived throughout Venezuela and speaks the language as well as a native. Teaching English, Anne has always been involved in community service helping in senior homes, with domestic violence, and/or any other way she finds to be of service.
Fundamigos was started 15 years ago by Dr. Ana Velasquez de Manyon, a plastic surgeon who saw a great need to help economically disadvantaged children born with facial deformities. Once a year expat cruisers gather to roll bandages for surgery, sew sheets, towels and pillowcases, and give fundraisers in order to purchase the many items needed by these patients when entering a government hospital for surgery. When the volunteers from Fundamigos arrive, they bring food for the children and their parents, cook, clean, and assist in the operating rooms & recovery—making sure that each patient receives a soft, fuzzy toy to keep nearby for reassurance and comfort. The Fundamigos organization also provides patient families with lodging and transportation.
This year, the group sponsored some 60+ operations in three days by holding various fundraisers including a fun Bingo festival run by Jeanne Andrews (Dragonfly) and Teri Damron (Ishi), and a picnic via boat, donated by Santos Deliso, to outlying islands. Anne tells All At Sea, “This year’s cruisers were just great to work with, as always, and I am looking forward to meeting everyone who will be here to join us next October. Helping out in the hospital is both a rewarding, yet emotional experience. Knowing that you are helping to put a smile back on children’s faces is gratifying. The cruising community’s contribution always makes a huge difference in the Fundamigos project and is always appreciated. I hope to see you hear in Puerto la Cruz next season – well, gotta fly!”
Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 21 years. She holds an MA Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean.