At Henrico’s Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, there was a whole lot of shaking going on.  And jumping and stomping.  But all for a good cause.

There is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela with a shortage of food, medicine, and basic needs.  Long and longer lines are filled with people trying to scavenge and fight for what little there is left.  Protests by thousands of people occur daily against the unpopular government.  There are plenty of photos of empty shelves, children fighting dogs for scraps, and beatings. And there is no end in sight.

While tragedies continue in their homeland, Venezuelans in the Richmond area have come together in a show of support. Not wanting to watch the misery of her people on the nightly news, Mary Dominguez is one Venezuelan who could no longer sit by and do nothing.

Ms. Dominguez, a licensed Zumba instructor, did what she does best, and that is to lead Zumba classes.  She quickly involved her friends at the Crunch Fitness Gym and held food drives.  Anyone who brought in a can of food could attend the special classes.   With the help of the Branch’s Baptist Church, located in the Southside of Richmond, and its Latino Ministry Casa Refugio de Armor and its Youth Group, Crunch Fitness  and other friends and family, over a thousand pounds of various canned food, dry goods, medical supplies, and baby items were collected.

The collected medical supplies and baby items are being sent through the organization Ayuda Humanitaria para Venezuela/Humanitarian Aid Program for Venezuela who will pay for the shipping costs of these supplies.

To ship the food and other goods, Mary “Zumba,” as she is affectionately called by her students, and her team of nine other Zumba-licensed instructors held a Dance for Venezuela at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on Saturday, May 6 from 12 noon to 3 p.m.  The cost to participate in this Zumbathon was a $10 donation per person.

Rosario Igharas, an OLL council member and chairman of Richmond’s Annual Filipino Festival, which is held at Lourdes, helped to coordinate the Zumbathon.  Since proceeds from previous Filipino Festivals have been sent to disaster-hit areas of Haiti and the Philippines, it was not surprising that Ms. Igharas volunteered to assist with the plight of the Venezuelans.  A member of Crunch Fitness, she secured the donated services of professional sound man Nilo Migo.

By the time zillions of calories were burned by over 160 sweaty exercisers, entrance donations were counted, and additional cash gifts were made, $3,000 was raised for Venezuela.  An identified orphanage and 12 families with children who have special needs will receive the goods.

“We are happy to help others through this wonderful event,” said Alice Daniel, a member of OLL and regular Crunch participant.  “I’m from the Philippines, so I totally understand how important it is to help your countrymen back home.  Mary is a very giving individual, a good person, and this is my way to show my support,” she added.

“It’s very sad what is going on in my homeland.  My father died a couple of months ago, so this is a tribute not only to his memory but to the people back home.  We want them to know we love them and will help in any way that we can,” said Mary Zumba.  “They are in our prayers and deeds.”

The successful fundraiser not only provided much-needed funds to send the goods to Venezuela, but also it brought together folks from different nationalities, languages, and backgrounds in a common cause to help others.   It was friends supporting friends and making new friends.  While there is no end in the foreseeable future of the human tragedy that has gripped Venezuela, those in the Richmond area are trying to help others with one step, one dance number at a time.