Hyperinflation has made Venezuela’s fiat currency, the bolivar, essentially unusable. The state-issued crypto-asset, the supposedly oil-backed petro that debuted last February hasn’t solved the problem, and now many Venezuelans can’t afford even basics like bread and medicine.
In the past week, three separate crypto-backed donation efforts have made their voices known on social media, with videos surfacing on Twitter and YouTube describing their projects, actions, and goals. Here’s a quick summary of all three and how they’ve garnered tangible results.
A pilot program taking place at the San Antonio school in Caracas focuses on feeding students breakfast by sending participants $1 a day for the course of one month. It’s run by Dash Text, a distributed charity system that lets people from anywhere around the world send donations to the school that get automatically and equally distributed among its intended targets.
“Some kids in this school only eat once or twice a day,” says Dash Text cofounder Alejandro Echeverria in a video posted by Dash Text to YouTube on March 15. Dash Text chose 50 children at the school whom they deemed the most food-insecure and showed them how to use Dash Text. The team also taught the person who runs the school’s canteen, which sells empanadas and juices for breakfast, how to accept payments in Dash.
The system ensures donors know exactly where their money is going, without any nonprofits acting as go-betweens that end up siphoning off some of the cash. Donors can provide information about who they are on the Dash Text charity platform and they can also learn about the individuals who receive the donations.
A key part of the idea is to get users in Venezuela to learn about and adopt cryptocurrency, which the team is promoting as a path toward “financial freedom.” The Dash Text charity program website includes a QR code through which donors can send money to the 50 Venezuelan children. Dash Text is currently only operational in Venezuela and Colombia, but people located elsewhere can still send cryptocurrency to Dash Text users in those countries directly from their personal crypto wallets.
“Before this help came, 50 percent of the students weren’t eating,” says the school’s canteen owner, Maribel Cruz, in Dash Text’s video. “Now they are eating.”
Bitcoin Venezuela is another program aimed at providing food to Venezuelans, particularly in orphanages, old age homes, and other special-care facilities. This week, @hodlonaut shared an online donations page for the group where people can send satoshis (each worth 0.00000001 BTC).
Bitcoin Venezuela is also set to receive the “Lightning Torch.” Hodlonaut started the Torch, which is currently being passed around on social media. Each person who receives the Torch adds 10,000 satoshis (currently worth $0.40) to the accumulating store of bitcoin and moves it along to the next person, who does the same thing.
This will keep going until the Torch gets a total of 4.2 million satoshis, Lightning Network’s transaction limit, which amounts to about $167 at time of writing. So far, the Torch has been passed back and forth across the Atlantic numerous times, at one point heading from Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey to Lightning Labs CEO Elizabeth Stark.
To get additional funds for Bitcoin Venezuela, Hodlonaut set up the fundraiser page with the goal of getting one bitcoin (worth about $4,000). The effort has received almost 300 donations so far, amounting to approximately 0.384 bitcoin.
Cryptograffiti, Airtm, and Cripto Concerje
An artist who goes by Cryptograffiti, whose art is meant to foster the adoption of cryptocurrencies, journeyed to the Colombia/Venezuela border city of Cúcuta where many Venezuelan refugees have headed to try to exit the country in search of better circumstances.
Cryptograffiti partnered with Latin American exchange Airtm and a local crypto training organization called Cripto Concerje on a day-long event meant to introduce Venezuelans to cryptocurrency as a fiat alternative. Those who showed up were also given donated bitcoin to buy food.
The event was funded through an interactive mural Cryptograffiti made out of a thousand bolivars painted to look like Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Through a digital platform, remote donors could click to have particular bolivars removed from the painting by people present at the event (Erik Voorhees, CEO of ShapeShift, was the biggest donor). So far, the effort has raised $16,000 worth in bitcoin.
The common thread for all of these efforts is adoption. They don’t just have the short-term goal of funding impoverished Venezuelans. They’re trying to get habitants of the country to learn how to use cryptocurrency and see it as a viable—and useful—alternative to the country’s failed fiat.