Back in Venezuela, they were teachers, police officers and newspaper carriers, but they were forced to flee their homeland in search of work and money to survive.
But the women, without identity papers, ended up working as prostitutes in sordid bars in Colombia, saving all they can to provide for their families back home, still in the throes of economic crisis.
Patricia, 30, a mother of three, was beaten, raped and sodomised by a drunken client – but she keeps on working in a brothel in Calamar in the center of the country.
“There are customers who treat you badly and that is horrible,” she says. “”Every day, I pray to God that they are good (to us).”
Alegria is a teacher of history and geography but in a Venezuela gripped by chronic hyperinflation, she was earning just 312,000 bolivars a month: less than a dollar.
Her salary was not enough “even for a packet of pasta,” the 26-year-old mother of a four-year-old boy told AFP.
In February, she crossed the border to Colombia.
She initially worked for three months as a waitress in the east, a job which offered room and board, but Alegria was never paid, getting by on tips.
“I sent my tips home to my family,” she said. Six people, including her son, were relying on her.
Eventually, even those were confiscated, so Alegria made her way south to Calamar, which is located in an area scarred by decades of armed conflict.
The region is a hub for drug-trafficking, and a bastion of dissident former FARC guerrillas.
With nine other women, Alegria – a pseudonym she gave AFP for this story that means ‘happiness’ — prostitutes herself every night in a bar in the town of 3,000 people.
Each client pays between 37,000-50,000 pesos ($11-16), of which 7,000 is kept by the establishment’s manager. On a “good night,” Alegria can earn the equivalent of between $30 and $100.
“We never intended on prostituting ourselves. We’re doing it because of the crisis,” says Joli, her voice cracking.
The 35-year-old lost her job as a newspaper carrier in 2016 because “there was no more paper to print them.”
After four years of recession and years of financial mismanagement, Venezuela’s crisis has seen poverty soar as basic necessities such as food and medicine became scarce.
Inflation is set to hit a staggering 1.4 million percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, which says 2019 will see that figure reach an astronomical 10 million percent.
Joli left her three children with her mother before trekking from town to town and job to job looking to make ends meet.
When she crossed the border into Colombia without a passport, she had nothing but the clothes she was wearing.
Some 1.9 million Venezuelans have fled the crisis-ridden country since 2015, according to the United Nations.