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On Friday, June 23, roughly 100 people, including musicians, artists and other members of the Bellingham community, gathered at Mosh Eisley on Ellis Street for a benefit show. The event was put together to raise money for a family struggling through the crisis in Venezuela, where many people are without basic necessities like food, power and medicine.

Deborah Mendoza, who moved to Bellingham last year, was born in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. The city of about 2 million people, located in the northwestern corner of the country, is where some of her family, including her grandparents and uncle, reside. According to Mendoza, her family members need life-saving medication that is not only expensive, but hard to get.

  “My mother and I have had to buy these medications from Spain or Mexico because they're impossible to find there. This has been difficult for the both of us to keep up, with the cost of the medications, shipping and fees being paid all out of pocket,” Mendoza said on her YouCaring fundraising page.

The event, which had a $5 suggested donation, was able to raise $375 for the Mendoza family. For Mendoza’s grandparents and uncle, $150 is enough to pay for basic food, medications and utilities for a month.

“I was surprised for this show about how many people came out and were supportive, and so many bands were on this lineup and willing to do this,” Mendoza said.

  “Listening to marginalized voices is so important. I see a lot of the time that folks will speak up about their suffering or discomfort, and other people will say, ‘That’s not my problem’ or ‘What could I even do about that?’”

Zev Papageorge

For decades, oil revenue fueled Venezuela’s economy, but recently, a combination of events has produced an economic crisis. Dwindling oil prices, severe drought and leadership issues have left the country with the highest inflation rate in the world.

  When Bellingham resident Zev Papageorge heard about Mendoza’s situation, they decided to take action, organizing a benefit show on her behalf. The event, at York District house show venue Mosh Eisley (formerly the Loud House) featured local bands Asterhouse, Guillotine Eyes, Tetrachromat, Lalochezia and Cat Bomb.

The lead singer of Lalochezia plays at Mosh Eisley June 23. Several bands played at the benefit show for a Venezuelan family. // Photo by Kevin Lake

  Since moving to Bellingham, Papageorge has been active within the music scene, and recently has become passionate about organizing events that positively impact community members.

  “Listening to marginalized voices is so important,” Papageorge said. “I see a lot of the time that folks will speak up about their suffering or discomfort, and other people will say, ‘That’s not my problem’ or ‘What could I even do about that?’”

Papageorge organized the show hoping that when people heard Mendoza’s story, they would be prompted to do more research about the crisis on their own, and realize anything they can do to help would be beneficial.

“I wanted to bring light to what's going on in Venezuela, because I actually had no idea about it until I met Deborah,” Papageorge said. “Seeing the stress she’s been under, seeing the fear. And I’m sure that it feels isolating. I wanted to do more to help.”

Brandin Tolbert, a recent Western grad, was one of the show’s attendees.

“I haven’t been to a house show in a very long time, just because of work, school and life. But I knew that I needed to be here tonight,” Tolbert said. “Not only is it going to be a great time, but the proceeds are going not only to a cause that I believe in, but are going to heavily affect someone within my community.”

Tolbert said that after touring colleges throughout the state, it was the art community that brought him to Bellingham.

 “In regards to this event, this is just the starting point,” Papageorge said. “Outside of Deborah and her family, there’s so many shows in Bellingham where the artists make money, which is great, but hosting more benefit shows is not that hard and a good form of activism.”

The crowd watches the show at Mosh Eisley. // Photo by Kevin Lake

Both Papageorge and Tolbert hope that more benefit shows are in Bellingham’s future.

  “This event shows that Bellingham has an incredible music scene, but also that the shows aren’t just for fun, there’s a reason behind them,” Tolbert said. “I’d love to see more shows like this, benefiting causes for those who need our help. Why not help with music?”

If you are interested in donating to the Mendoza family, you can do so at:

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