by Mike Herron
On Saturday, April 16th, at 6:58 pm a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Ecuador. Centered near the town of Muisne in a sparsely populated coastal area 170 kilometers (110 miles) from Quito, the earthquake caused widespread damage, collapsing structures within hundreds of kilometers. Much of the town of Pedernales, about 35 kilometers to the south-southwest of the epicenter, was leveled. At least 646 people were killed, 4,605 people injured, and more than 29,000 people are now homeless. More people are still missing and the death toll is expected to rise as rescue efforts continue.
My wife and I were at the kitchen sink on the third floor of our apartment building in Cuenca, doing our dinner dishes, when the earthquake struck. Far from the epicenter, we still had liquids sloshing over our counters and a few loose items falling from shelves. Being Southern California natives, we are no strangers to earthquakes, and we both knew this was a major quake and that somewhere a tragedy was unfolding.
As I write this, it has been more than two weeks since the quake struck. I marvel at the changes that have taken place all around me. Gone are the petty online discussions about which presidential candidate can do the least damage back in the “old country”. Gone also are conversations about movies or restaurants or other innocuous topics.
Instead I see Ecuadorians and expats alike banding together trying to figure out the best way to help the victims of the earthquake. Some are organizing volunteers to go to the scene and provide direct help.
Others are involved in collecting non-perishable food, clothing and medical supplies to ship to the affected areas. Still others are trying to link friends and family members with news about loved ones. Organizations like the Hearts of Gold Foundation, Ecuador Cares, and others are expanding their charitable activities to include the victims of the quake. Helping Kids In Ecuador, an organization that provides medical services to children in Ecuador, dispatched medical teams to affected areas to assist the relief efforts. El Colectivo Madre Tierra, alongside with San Sebas Café, Yakumama Hostal and Brigada de surfistas por un techo are also working hard in order to set up a camp in Canoa.
One of the things that impressed me the most is that any distinction between Ecuadorians and Gringos has vanished. Forgotten for the moment are our differences, replaced by the genuine and heartfelt desire to help another person in need. I’ve often wondered why it seems to take a disaster to bring out the humanity in people. We all possess the traits of compassion and kindness, yet for reasons of our own, many of us often keep these qualities hidden below the surface.
It restores my faith in humankind to see how people have responded to the earthquake in Ecuador. My wife and I have donated food, clothing, medicine and money to show our support for those affected by this catastrophe. We plan to do still more. I encourage you to do the same.
- CITIZEN JOURNALISM – Bringing Out the Best in People - August 3, 2020