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Running Towards A Dream: Venezuelan Refugee Completes NYC Marathon


Raul Asención in green running the 2019 NYC Marathon 

By Catherine Kirch

Last Sunday, November 3rd, Raul Asención completed the New York City Marathon. A refugee from Venezuela, Asención raised $3,000 for Team Catholic Charities as a way to give back to the organization who helped him and his children when they needed it the most.

Once a marathon runner and highly skilled worker in Venezuela's petroleum industry, Raul Asención was forced to flee his hometown of Caracas with his three children out of fear for political retribution and starvation.

Support and Success

After settling in Yonkers, Asención visited a Catholic Charities of New York free walk-in immigration clinic and, with his limited English language skills, was connected to a CCNY caseworker. The caseworker got him access to an immigration attorney, and his family is now applying for political asylum in the United States.

Asención got involved in his local community by joining the Obreros Unidos de Yonkers, a community-based service group that helps day laborers find resources and job training. He traveled to the Bronx and completed both the 10-hour and the 30-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) courses. He continues to attend monthly Obreros meetings, where he gives back by helping other immigrants who face similar challenges.

Asención also encouraged his three sons to complete their OSHA certifications. Inspired by their father, two of Asención’s sons, Carlos Raul and Raul Enrique, are now enrolled as students at Westchester Community College, while Raul Alejandro plans to attend a vocational school in 2020 and learn a skilled trade. All three sons also work with their father as day laborers.

NYC Marathon

Asención had been an avid marathon runner in Venezuela and wanted to join Team Catholic Charities as a form of gratitude for the kind New Yorkers who helped him and his family. He hopes to bring attention to the plight of immigrant workers in the United States; much of the money he raised for Team Catholic Charities came from the day laborer community.

Asención hopes that his completion of the TCS NYC Marathon will inspire others to conquer life’s challenges despite how difficult they may seem.

“I compare the marathon very much to my life,” says Asención. “I am a runner. Running is my dream, and I run towards my dreams. No matter how small or how big, we have to chase our dreams.”