ECUADOR: Salesian Missionaries Continue to Focus on Rebuilding, Education after Earthquake
(MissionNewswire) Five months after the 7.8 earthquake that killed 673 and left tens of thousands homeless in Ecuador, Salesian missionaries living and working in the area are still helping those who have been affected. They are also working to ensure that no child is left without an education. The earthquake, which struck on April 16, destroyed water systems, collapsed roads, and affected 33 health centers. In addition, 560 schools and close to 10,000 buildings were either damaged or completely destroyed.
The hardest hit areas were in the Manabi Province which includes the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales. Immediately after the earthquake struck, Salesian missionaries responded immediately helping to dig through rubble to look for trapped survivors and providing assistance to those affected. Salesian programs across the country have been working to collect emergency aid and coordinate volunteer efforts.
Even while helping those in the community, Salesian missionaries needed to address their own programs that were affected. In Tarqui area of Manta, the San Jose Salesian Education Center had buildings that were damaged. The oldest building of the school and the parish church were so badly damaged that they had to be demolished. Construction is still ongoing to rebuild these buildings and repair other buildings in the educational complex. In addition, to ensure the quality of the education provided, Salesian missionaries made several adjustments to the infrastructure and services to make it more accessible and safe for the students and teachers. A septic tank was built for the treatment of waste water, and new desks, blackboards, projectors and other teaching and audio-visual materials were purchased. There still remains issues with access to drinking water and the electricity grid.
Before the earthquake, the school provided education to 1,560 students each year. Today, in the block of buildings that was not damaged, there are 1,415 students who attend school now in two shifts. This also ensures that the jobs of 102 employees are safe. More than 450 of the students attending the school were directly affected by the earthquake with the loss of family members and their homes. The Salesian school is assisting these youth with scholarships to be able to continue their studies and through coaching and guidance from the school counseling department.
Salesian missionaries are focusing their work on psycho-emotional activities helping both children and their families process the trauma from the earthquake and everything they had been through while working to prepare them for school educational activities. To accomplish this task, Salesian missionaries utilized the services of psychologists from the local Salesian University.
Salesian missionaries also operate a medical clinic, which was very busy in the initial days after the earthquake seeing up to 200 patients. While the number of patients has slowed, mothers still access the clinic with their children seeking both physical exams and psychological assistance. Two Salesian doctors and two nurses were sent to help the most affected communities in the wake of the earthquake and now staff the clinic. The Salesian parish is also still working to provide food rations, although the availability is diminishing. Recently
“Every day there is something new to be done. Our priority is to respond according to our means – especially financial means and those in need and continuing to provide education in the Salesian style at Manta,” says Father Luis Mosquera, from the community of Manta.
Headquartered in New Rochelle, NY, Salesian Missions has launched a Disaster in Ecuador fund to help the victims of the earthquake. To raise money for the fund, the Catholic nonprofit aid organization has launched an emergency fundraising campaign and is issuing an urgent appeal for donations. Go to salesianmissions.org/ecuador.