Send a donation to aid Chilean earthquake victims

To make a donation to help earthquake victims, send your check, made payable to “Maryland Province Jesuits Fund” to Maryland Province Jesuits Fund,
P.O. Box 64818,
Baltimore, MD 21264

To make a donation online, go to
and click on the Chile Relief Fund link.

Meanwhile, we'll keep posting updates on what's happening to help the victims of this devastating earthquake.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Taking the next step

This report appeared in the worldwide Jesuits' latest newsletter -- we thought you'd like to read it, too.

CHILE: Jesuit Banks of Hope

The earthquake that struck Chile at the end of February caused massive destruction in one of the poorest areas of the country.

Twenty poverty relief centres run by the Jesuit organization Hogar de Cristo, Chile's largest non-profit organization founded in 1944 by Jesuit Father Alberto Hurtado, were completely destroyed.

"Since we were working there already, we immediately started a campaign to collect food, clothing, blankets," said the director, Father Agustín Moreira. With almost 4,000 employees, 8,000 volunteers, and 60,000 people who receive assistance everyday, Hogar de Cristo was able to make use of its extensive contacts in the distribution of aid.

With the Chilean government now taking care of the situation, Hogar de Cristo has launched the second phase of its rebuilding and outreach campaign, which will cost an estimated US$ 20 million.

"People receive micro-credit and they organize into groups of approximately eight to ten people. If they repay the money they are loaned, they will receive another loan, and so on. In this way, they gradually overcome poverty. We are the only organization of its size in Chile that makes loans to poor people."

For further information go to:
For the English translation go to

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You have brought hope back to this community

We have received from Chile reports of continuing progress and reports of continued need -- as well as words of hope and gratitude....

Dear Friends,
We send our regards and love from this south central part of Chile. Winter is right around the corner and our mornings are getting very cold.  The heavy rains offer the renewed promise for future life and growth.   
During this time of reconstruction we have received help and generous support from many of you who made the decision to help out your sisters and brothers affected by the tsunami.  You have brought hope back to this community. 

Once again we want to thank everybody for her/his generosity.

In Tirua and in the Mocha Island according to our plans we are within reach of our goal which was to cover the small houses with zinc on the outside and SBA panels inside.  Families with more than three members living in these small houses have received help so they could add more rooms.  Furthermore, every single family affected by the tsunami received pots, kettles, silverware, and small firewood ovens. Carpenters and artisan who make furniture have also received tools and raw material to get back to work. 

Families have shelter; utilities still needed in Tirua

In Tirua most of the affected families are already living in these small houses (mediaguas). Yet we continue to be very concerned about the delay of utilities. These families still do not have electricity, water, or sewage.  We are asking for donations in order to develop and provide these services to this community affected by the tsunami.  We are also coordinating with the National Emergency Committee to allocate individual sanitary units to those living in these emergency houses.

Waiting for land so building can begin

In Quidico we are ready to build small houses but we are waiting for the land that was to be allocated by the local government. Hopefully, we will start construction of these houses soon. Another major concern in this town are the many small production projects were damaged by the catastrophe and we are asking for donations in order to provide technical support and resources to re-implement these affected projects.
In Tirua and Quidico we are also supporting a group of families who lost all their possessions and houses in Tubul. These families, who originally came from this region, settled in Tubul because of employment opportunities. After the earthquake they returned home to Tirua and Quidico with nothing.  We have supported these families, built their emergencies houses and given them basic cooking utensils.

A campaign for aid for 300 families from Tubul

We also decided to visit to the coastal towns of Llico and Tubul in Arauco, located 150 kilometers to the north. It was a distressing situation. While families living in Tirua and Mocha Island have found refuge in emergency houses, in Llico and Tubul people remain living in crowded and inhuman conditions, in tents and huts.  In Llico which is a smaller community than Tirua, Un Techo para Chile (A Roof for Chile) has built 92 emergency houses. On the other hand, in Tubul the tsunami caused enormous damage and we should have built at least 300 emergency houses; however, less than 100 houses have been built.     
In order to face and address this distressing situation, we have decided once again to appeal to your generosity and launch a campaign for donations for improving and building small houses (mediaguas) and to provide the affected people with mattress, beds, cooking utensils, ovens, and wood stoves. We will begin helping the 92 families in Llico. Afterward, we will seek new ways to support and help the 300 families from Tubul.

We strongly believe that we cannot remain doing nothing while some of our brothers and sisters are living in tents and hovels. I know that everybody has already worked very hard and most of you have been very generous giving your time and making donations. However, there are families who still need assistance and support and for that reason we must all redouble our efforts in order to help them to renew their lives and hope.
Once again we want to thank for all your support and trust in our work and services to the most affected people of this natural disaster. We carry on working in coordination with the Municipality and Servicio Pais. We also want to thank the willingness of these organizations to work with us as team.

Thanks to Carmen Jara Saavedra for the photo in this post.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reason to smile

Un Techo Para Chile's hard work is putting roofs over the heads of children and families throughout the most devastated parts of Chile. As the roofs go up — thanks to thousands of volunteer hours, many given by young men and women attending university — smiles appear on the faces of both those who have been helped and those who helped. Take a look

Monday, May 10, 2010

College students come to the rescue (in pictures)

Students from Alberto Hurtado University help build "mediaguas," emergency housing in Chile.Their efforts are part of the work of Un Techo para Chile, the group so instrumental in getting roofs over the heads of thousands left homeless after the earthquake. Some 350 students built 153 houses.

Un Techo para Chile,as of May 2nd, has built 13,368 of these small houses and is committed to building 20,000 before the arrival of the winter season.

Housing and tools in tsunami-damaged Tirua

Winter is beginning in the Chilean coastal town of Tirua, home of the Mapuche people who suffered twice when the south central coast was hit by both a tsunami and an earthquake in February.

Fr. Pablo Castro Fones, SJ, who heads the Jesuit mission there, reported that Tirua as well as other nearby fishing villages of the Arauco Province have been terribly affected.

The first step was providing small emergency housing.

In all, some 466 families were assisted first with a roof over their heads and many families were also given tools for everyday living. Inventive builders figured out how to enlarge the small one-room houses so there would be room for more than three people.

The small wooden houses were fitted with insulating panels and metal roofs to protect the inhabitants from rain. Because people lost everything, they were also given stoves, cooking utensils and bedding. Sanitary equipment, including electricity, water and baths, was slow in coming but Fr. Castro reported that equipment was found to get these necessary services operational.

“We have been able to accomplish all this in Tirúa, Quidico and Isla Mocha,” noted Fr. Castro. “But in Llico and Tubul we have only enough resources for emergency houses but none for improving them at all. The approximate cost for improving emergency houses at Llico and Tubul is 50 million pesos (US$ 100,000).”

Families lost not only their homes, they lost the tools of their livelihoods.

These are people who work as carpenters, cooks, and most of all, small fishermen. Among the small fishermen there are boat owners, divers and shore fishermen. Since the government is offering assistance to boat owners and divers, Fr. Castro said the Jesuit mission is coming to the aid of other small business owners. They’ve supplied tools to two furniture makers, seven carpenters, a cook and four restaurant owners.

In addition, he said, they were beginning to speak with fishermen to see how they can help them work more efficiently. “We are also studying the best way to help small shore fishermen to recover their tools. Only in Tirúa, shore fishermen may need around US$ 8,000,” he added.

So much has been done but Fr. Castro notes they aren’t finished yet.

“We sincerely believe we cannot remain passive while there are brothers and sisters of ours living in huts and tents."

"All of us have already worked hard. The majority have been generous in their donations. But there are families who still require help. We must all renew our efforts so they can renew their lives,” he said.

All together now

Young people in Chile are turning the wreckage from Chile's earthquake into small new communities, filled with hope.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A journey from fall colors to fallen roofs

Carlos Rodriguez, SJ. a former Provincial of Peru, went to Cuaquenes to join the volunteers of Hogar de Christo. He has sent a report on his initial impressions as he met people visiting a soup kitchen.

My journey to southern Chile got me involved in this experience. I was looking at the beauty of the landscapes, mountains, forests, and marshes. It was so wonderful: vineyards and the fall season coming out with such beautiful colors.

From the sights of mountains, forests and vineyards to the devastation of destroyed bridges and collapsed houses.

On the other hand, I saw the results of the earthquake: roadblocks, destroyed bridges, collapsed houses, fallen roofs. When we got to Talca the view was also very desolated and gloomy! I saw debris all over the place. In the city of Cauquenes where we arrived at 2:00 pm we saw the same distressing view; debris on the streets and buildings collapsed.

We arrived at the Hogar de Cristo where Claudia and Sergio, a volunteer, gave us a friendly welcome. We were three Jesuits; Oscar from Bolivia, Eliot from Colombia, and I. The Hogar de Cristo staff invited us to get to know their apostolic work. We went to the airfield, the Boldo, where there were many volunteers, donated supplies and some volunteers coming and going distributing them.

The next two days we spent in a soup kitchen that the Hogar de Cristo has opened in Fernandez, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Cauquenes. This soup kitchen was set up to help elderly men and women. We went to these people’s homes and saw that kinds of things that Anabel the social worker said could only be uncovered by this kind of event: the real situation of the poor and the elderly.

Some of these cases were shocking and harrowing.

What has touched me deeply; besides the horror of the destruction and the helplessness of these people, was the fear and insecurity because of the continual aftershocks. Everybody in Cauquenes asked us to build small homes (mediaguas).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Carlos Rodriguez, SJ. a former Provincial of Peru, went to Cuaquenes to join the volunteers of Hogar de Christo. He has sent a report on

With the “Hogar de Cristo” in Cauquenes
My journey to southern Chile got me involved in this experience. I was looking at the beauty of the landscapes, mountains, forests, and marshes. It was so wonderful: vineyards and the fall season coming out with such beautiful colors. On the other hand, I saw the results of the earthquake: roadblocks, destroyed bridges, collapsed houses, fallen roofs. When we got to Talca the view was also very desolated and gloomy! I saw debris all over the place. In the city of Cauquenes where we arrived at 2:00 pm we saw the same distressing view; debris on the streets and buildings collapsed. We arrived at the Hogar de Cristo where Cla udia and Sergio, a volunteer, gave us a friendly welcome. We were three Jesuits; Oscar from Bolivia, Eliot from Colombia, and I.
The Hogar de Cristo staff invited us to get to know their apostolic work. We went to the airfield, the Boldo, where there were many volunteers, donated supplies and some volunteers coming and going distributing them. The next two days we were in a soup kitchen that the Hogar de Cristo has implemented in Fernandez which is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Cauquenes. This soup kitchen was set up to help elderly men and women. We went to these people’s homes and saw that kinds of things that Anabel the social worker said could only be uncovered by this kind of event: the real situation of the poor and the elderly. Some of these cases were shocking and harrowing. What has touched me deeply; besides the horror of the destruction and the helplessness of these people, was the fear and insecurity because of the continual aftershocks. Everybody in Cauquenes asked us to build small homes (mediaguas). I told this to Carlos Rodriguez, SJ.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Progress....and 40,000 houses to go

“Un Techo para Chile” (UTPCH) has built around 1,400 emergency houses (mediaguas) in the most affected areas of Chile and so far it has enlisted 4,900 volunteers.

More remains to be done as UTPCH has set a goal to build 40,000 houses before this winter.

With that goal in mind, UTPCH has been building emergency housing in the most affected areas hit by the earthquake and the tsunami.  To date,

• 398 houses have been built in the Metropolitan Region of Conchali, Estacion Central, Lo Espejo, Buin, Curacavi and San Jose de Maipo and the regions of Peralillo, Placilla, Pichidegua, Santa Cruz, Pumanque, Yerbas Buenas, Marchihue, La Estrella, Nancagua, Pamilla, Lolo, Chepica and La Vega).  

• 636 houes have been built in Maule, in Boyenruca, Sagrada Familia, Villa Prat, San Rafael, Pelluhue, La Vega, Villa Alegre, San Clemente, Empedrado, Talca, Putu, Curepto, Lipimavida, Lloca, Rarin, Constitucion, Lloca, Chanco, Pelluhue, Vichuquen, and Licaten;

• and 339 houses have risen in Cobquecura, Coliumo, Yumbel, Curanilahue, Tucapel Bajo, Lebu, Mulchen, Coelemu, Concepcion, Isla Santa Maria, Mulchen and Penco.

"We can make a difference in the lives of these people."

Jaime Mosso, a young volunteer working in Boyeruca, says, “We have to think and reflect very deeply and take into our own hands the responsibility of this task. Even though everything seems so complicated and tough, we can make a difference in the lives of these affected people. That is why the construction of the emergency housing is an urgent priority. "
In the coming days, a new group of 100 volunteers from the Engineering Faculty of the Catolica Pontificia University are going to Pichidegua to build 20 houses.  Another 120 volunteers from the Commercial Engineering Faculty of the same University are going to Yerbas Buenas to build 20 more.    
At the same time the Scouts will be building 40 in Pencahue and 40 more will be built by 120 volunteers in San Clemente. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Call To Build a New World

I am sending you a story written by Cristobal Emilfork, SJ, about the services which were provided last week to the affected populations in Pelluhe and Caranpeour and a text written by Nicolas Oelckers, SJ, about the situation of immigrants after the quake and the services and assistance that the JSM is providing them. Both were posted earlier today.

Below, I have also added some information as regards our schools. We have yet to evaluate the damages and determine the costs to repair St. Ignatius Alonso Valle high school and Saint Ignatius high school in Concepción as well as the top floor of our education office. More study and assessments are still necessary before repairs begin.

Finally, I am sending you information about our two Infocap rooms where students are living as well as a note about the Ignatian Spirituality Center.

All of this is coinciding with the celebration of the bicentennial of Chile independence. This bicentennial should be a special occasion to recognize a call
“to build a new world with access to social well-being and justice, a new jubilee in which overcoming all divisions and where God restores his justice for everyone.” (CG 34, 3, 16).

Update on School Repairs
Ignatian Education Network:
The Saint Ignatius School in Calera
This is a rural school located in the Calera city. The families who are living in this area are poor farmers. This rural school, which has 350 students, was severely damaged, both classrooms and the roof.

The Saint Ignatius School in Valparaiso
This school, located in the city of Valparaiso, has 750 students. This school serves students who come from the poorest areas of the city. The structure of the school was also damaged.

The Jose Antonio Lecaros School
This school, located in western Santiago, has 520 students. It is serving low income students. Some parts of the school structure were damaged and the potable water system was broken.

The Saint Ignatius School in Concepcion

It is located right at the epicenter earthquake area in southern Santiago. This school has 1,400 students and is a subsidized private school. After a partial assessment it was decided that the elementary school area must be demolished. Furthermore, the school also lost a lot of educational materials. The homes of many families of the students as well as administrative staff were also destroyed or damaged.

The Santiago Institute

The building structure was not damaged. So classes resumed March 8. INFOCAP has 1,200 students, but some students are not attending their classes regularly because they do not want to leave their houses. Some lost their homes during the earthquake and we are helping them to get emergency housing.
During the earthquake many of our computers fell down off the storage racks and as a consequence, we lost them. This area of the building must be fixed up also.

The Biobio Institute
This area was severely affected by the earthquake and the tsunami and as a consequence many of our students (around 80%) lost their homes and possessions. We are visiting our students to assess the damage to their houses and lives and to see what kind of support they need.
INFOCAP could not start classes because of this difficult situation. However, we are planning to start classes April 15.

Ignatian Spirituality Center
The center house has been damaged in many areas. The roof and some walls were severely damaged and need to be repaired. Also the chapel needs to be fixed. According to the recommendations made by the construction company, we cannot use the building until it is completely repaired because we would be putting people’s lives and security at risk. We are seeking alternative creative ways to teach the courses and workshops we have already planned.

-- Eugenio Valenzuela SJ

Not All Who Suffer Are Chilean

The population affected by the earthquake is not only Chilean; there are also many foreign people who were affected. Many Peruvian families living in the capital of Chile have also been hurt by this tragedy. The houses they rented are now uninhabitable. They are living in camps located in plazas, parks, and some of them are even living in the streets.

These days we have worked so hard and learn so much more about our migrant brothers and sisters. Working in coordination with “Hogar de Cristo,” the Jesuit Migrant Service, or SJM, and other civil society organizations, we set a goal to find affordable houses for these migrant families. This commitment is a great challenge for us and we are not sure that we will be able to respond and meet effectively all migrant basic needs.

In the beginning we could not understand why they did not want to go to the shelters. “What is going on?” we asked ourselves. “What is happening with them? Why do they prefer to remain at the camp instead of going to the shelters which are providing temporary housing and supportive services to the affected population?” We realized that their decision was linked to their vulnerability in this country. They are living in a country that is not their own and often hostile.

For all these reasons, it is not enough to take them into the shelters. They are not homeless. They have been working hard and fighting to make their lives here.

They are struggling to keep their lives intact.
They have developed their own support networks; they have their friends and emotional support and do not want to lose them. How are they not going to want to protect that? Could it be that they think that in the shelters they are going to be put at risk and lose all these things and for that reason they prefer to be together in the streets?

The SJM wants to help and support our migrant brothers in a comprehensive way.
We want to put our whole minds, wills, and hearts to work with them, to be with them, to serve them, to defend them, to promote and to empower them. We want to respond to them efficiently serving and meeting their physical, emotional, social, and financial needs. It is very important for us to work in collaboration and coordination with other organizations such NGOs, municipalities and Consulates in order to find the best solutions which will give encouragement and peace to them and us.

-- Nicolas Oelckers SJ

One Endless Minute

Monday dawned clear on March 8th. It was 7:30 in the morning; the first rays of the sun started to illuminate that huge mass of blue dark water which would soon flood the wheat fields of the Maule coast. It was a quiet and calm sea.

Looking at the sea, who would have guessed that these now quiet waves were the same that two weeks ago had left destruction and death in cities such as Pelluhe, Curanipe and other small towns located in central southern Chile? We were 140 young volunteers eager and willing to work. “Un Techo para Chile” had organized the hands and hearts of these thousands of volunteers who were seeking ways to serve and relieve the suffering of the population affected by this tragedy.
The plan was very simple: to build 60 small houses (mediaguas) for the poorest peoples – some of who lost everything and others who lost everybody – who are still living in the emergency camps.

When our buses were close to the city of Pelluhue, we saw a shocking scene.
The fishing wharf area of the harbor (Mariscadero), a piece of land adjacent to the sea, was totally destroyed by the force of the waves. The towers of the stadium had collapsed and were on the ground like match sticks. We saw the path of a capricious sea which destroyed all signs of civilization in this area. However, 10 meters away from this area the trail of death left by the waves had not touched other houses.

It is so hard for me to write about this tragedy because I cannot find words to describe what happened here. There are no words to correctly describe the hell, desolation, distress, despair. It smelled rotten, as if dreams were cut from their roots, of so much suffering and affliction.

However, in the midst of so much destruction I could find hope; a hope that made me keep going and do not give up in spite of the misery and sadness surround me; a hope that edifies because it touches a vital breath which allows it to keep alive; this hope was in places that my naïve and grief-filled eyes could not see.
The hope and calm of Pancho and Cata - two children who lived with their grandparents and escaped from the tsunami when their grandparents forced them to run away leaving them behind. These two children reached the hill and survived but they will never see their grandparents again.

The hope of Rene, an artisan who lost his handicraft workshop, his instruments and tools, but he could not hold back his tears when the young volunteers and I gave him an 18-meter house which is going to protect him at least during this winter season.

The tireless spirit of children, men, and women who had no problem to work from 8 am until 1 am the next day, lunching in shifts in order to keep on working; young people who made the generous decision to spend the last weeks of their vacations working for all those anonymous and suffering Chileans.

A few weeks ago I was here in this city, participating in the Virgen de la Candelaria pilgrimage, walking along these streets which now are empty, kind of frozen in time. The house where I used to stay was totally destroyed and being turned into pieces of scrap wood.

I went to Chanco to visit Fr. Francisco, the pastor of this small town; this beautiful small town that usually has so many visitors during the Catholic celebration of the Virgen de la Candelaria. I found Fr. Francisco so quiet and catatonic looking at the place where the church used to be; there is nothing there, even the debris disappeared. It seemed to me that Fr. Francisco was living in an imaginary past refusing to see the cruel and hard reality before his eyes.

At the end of the week I admitted my powerlessness in the face of so much suffering.
It did not make sense. As a Jesuit — even more as a human being, my hands and my heart could not find ways which would help these affected people blot out magically all the suffering they lived. However, I could do something wiser that I learned from the novitiate mission in Tirua: Help people to feel their lives again, in other words, I decided to listen to and accompany them.

When we were at the Pelluhue square waiting for transportation to go back to Santiago, a lady near me sighed and said, “We are now by ourselves again.” Most of the volunteers were leaving the city. I glanced at her thinking this is not a short time commitment, this task is going to take months, even years.
I think we must not only build houses (mediaguas) or give them out food. We must listen to them.

-- Cristobal Emilfork, SJ

Friday, April 2, 2010

Next Steps in Rebuilding Chile

Fr. Eugenio Valenzuela, SJ, Chilean provincial, sends a report from Pablo Castro, SJ, the superior of the Jesuit Tirua Community. In this letter he writes some reflections and describes some ways of developing medium and long term apostolic works in the communities affected by this tragedy:

We are very grateful for all your generosity, support, and aid.    

We have not yet recovered from the violence that hit us from the earth and the sea. It was shocking.  When we went into town, the situation was distressful.  However, we hugged each other gratefully because we survived the catastrophe.
We began asking for help for those people whose houses were destroyed by the sea but who escaped with their lives from the tsunami.

In the beginning we prioritized and served people who lost everything. At that time we were isolated and without any kinds of services.  Only the radio was working.  We immediately organized a commission in order to respond to the emergency with humanitarian aid.  The earthquake did not damage the interior little towns too much, but the tsunami destroyed a large part of the small coastal towns here.  It destroyed all the supermarkets, for that reason, we had a food shortage.   Furthermore, houses, cars, trucks, some small restaurants and carpenter workshops were also washed away. In other words, the tsunami took part of the hearts of those people who worked and fought all their lives to have those possessions.  Most of the fishing boats were also destroyed.

A few days later the cities finally got aid. “Hogar de Cristo” sent us food and clothes by plane. “Un techo para Chile” and “Servicio Pais,” another aid organization, started to evaluate damages and developed an emergency plan which was implemented in coordination with the municipalities, community leaders, and neighborhoods. 
Working together we have also provided humanitarian aid to the very poor rural families who were living in fear and anxiety because this tragedy deeply affected their lives.  

Three days ago, life gradually began returning to normal.   For instance, the basic services are working now. Humanitarian aid is well organized and it is providing effective and efficient services. 

We think that it is time to begin the process of reconstructing the small towns here developing medium and long term reconstruction plans.  We believe that coordinating and working together with the different existing networks here will be a key element in this process.  The first step is to start a dialogue with the different organizations that are already working in this area in order to improve our diagnosis and make the best possible decisions.  At the same time it is important to develop a psychological support program for the affected people especially for those who continue to suffer from fear and anxiety. In this regard, psychologists are volunteering and working with these families and in the poorest rural areas,  some volunteer teachers are already working with children affected by this tragedy.
Below you will find the medium and long term initial reconstruction proposals which we are developing.  We hope and ask for your support and help.  We need your generous financial donation in order to develop and implement these programs. 
Housing:  The “Un techo para Chile” is building emergency housing. We are asking for donations such as wood, zinc roofing, and financial assistance. We want to cover the houses inside and out with a special material in order to make these houses more resistant to the coming winter time. Furthermore, we want to improve these houses adding a small 9’x9’ room which will be used as a kitchen.   The biggest room will be used as bedroom.  We also want to build a shed that could be used to house tools and other kinds of materials.  In this way we want to support the small businessmen who lost everything because of the tsunami.  Finally, this proposal also seeks to provide jobs for the poor, better their incomes and the quality of their lives.
Goods and services.  We have already started to support those families who lost their possessions or whose houses were flooded but are habitable.   We are providing them with mattresses, ovens, small tables, etc.  However, we know that it is going to take more time in order to provide everything that they need. We have almost nothing of kitchen utensils such as pots, pans, etc.  Yesterday, a mother was able to pick up her three little children and go back to her home because she received kitchen utensils and was able to cook for them.
Grassroots organizations. We are working with the members of these organizations seeking the best ways to strengthen their committees and organizations.  We strongly believe that we have to dialogue with them and take into consideration the grassroots organizations leadership opinions and experience before we make any decision or send or distribute any kinds of donations in these places. 
Spiritual and emotional support.  The affected population is very distressed and frightened.  We have been to get back to work on our regular ministries and apostolic works and this Holy Week will be an special time of reflection for all of us. It is also very important that school teachers have professional support in order to develop some skills which will allow them to help and support students.
Micro Enterprise.  There are many things that have to be done.  The temptation to respond to just immediate needs is great but longer term projects are more important.  Tirua had been a subsidized community before this tragedy. It would be a big mistake to increase these subsidies.   In this regard there are some things that can be done almost immediately   1.- Replace the working tools lost when the carpenters of the town lost their workshops.  In this way they will immediately start making furniture which we will buy and distribute to the affected population.  2. Grant loans to people who lost their small businesses such as: supermarkets, restaurants, and small retail outlets in order to help them to restart and provide these services soon.   3.) Strengthening the trade network of the Relmu Witral weavers whose sails will be affected by this tragedy.            
Fishermen and Forestry.  The major sources of employment in this city that have been damaged by the tsunami and the earthquake we linked to the fishing and forestry industries.   We and our partners are seeking ways to allow these two small industries to continue to function.

After the tsunami hit Tirua, someone posted a video surveying the damage. You can see it on You Tube:

The Day When the Earth Shook

Chilean provincial Fr. Eugenio Valenzuela, SJ, has sent two new reports. Below you will find reflections written by Fr. Eduardo Alonso, SJ, written just as the earthquake ended and the realization of what had happened sank in.

A second report about plans for the future will be posted in another blog today.

Finally, Fr. Valenzuela sends his own thanks for the support he and his country have already seen. He says,

"With this opportunity, we also want to thank our friends, provinces, and lay people from many countries for their solidarity, letters, and prayers. Once again thank you for your support, concern, and humanitarian aid that we have received from you in these difficult times where a lot of people are suffering in Chile; all of this solidarity expressed in different ways is a sign of grace and hope for us."

We remain with you in our prayers and our support on this Good Friday.

From Fr. Alonso:
I need to write something in order to exorcise this distress and sense of angst that I have felt since February 27th, 2010 at 3.30 in the morning.
It is connected to the day that the earth shook.  That day I was in a room at the Loyola Retreat House that is located in the Padre Hurtado community and one hour away from Santiago. I was totally involved in the Spiritual Exercises process beginning the contemplation the passion of  Jesus Christ. 

I went to my bed thinking and preparing myself (as St. Ignatius advised) about the next day´s topic:  “Tomorrow early in the morning I will pray with the Gethsemane passage,” I said to myself  before I closed my eyes and put my life in God’s hands.
Suddenly, just like a tremendous and furious storm I was woken up by the thunderous and noisy sound made by the crunching glass of the windows in my room.  My bed was shaking and the furniture was wobbling.  I got up as soon as could. I put on my pants and sandals while the walls and floor were swaying.

I opened the door and saw another fellow who was under the door frame of his room; we went out together. The power was out.  The long dark hallway was a zigzagging tunnel and two floors above were shaking like jelly.  Everything turned fragile and seemed illogical and unreal.  

“It is not a nightmare," I said to myself. “This is happening right now.”

Once in the park – where most of the Jesuit brothers happened to be – I looked up towards the sky while everything was shaking around me with a relentless scream coming from the depths of the earth. I looked up towards the sky and I saw the bright moon and something like stars. The universe seemed to have been indifferent and aloof from what was happening to us. I stayed there along my brothers waiting for it all to stop, waiting for the stillness to return hoping that God remembered us. 

A train near the house blew its horn. Some birds cut through the sky. The trees were still dancing and the ground seemed like the sea.
We continued to wait, looking at each other and observing the world which suddenly became mad, expecting the unexpected during those two minutes that seemed endless.
After the earthquake we have had more than 140 aftershocks and the earth is still groaning.

In Conception, Talcahuano, Maule the situation is bleak. The tsunami waves rolled more than one kilometer into the inner city and they destroyed everything on the way.
Last night I watched many children crying in front of the TV cameras looking for their missing parents.  I also saw a desperate grandfather who had nothing to eat or to give to his grandchildren. He was trying to justify why he stole some bottles of milk from the supermarket.  
I saw a grateful mother with her daughter in her arms, she and her little daughter survived the tragedy.  I also saw a young man who lost his wife and son in the tsunami looking at great piles of debris.   
I saw a fishing boat which was carried by the sea into the main street of a small city. I also saw the remains of a circus devoured by the sea water and its artists explaining how they saw the sea take it all away with a devastating noise.
I saw broken bridges, highways and collapsed building that looked like pieces of papers; I saw the face of a policeman in tears because he could not save the life of a little boy.
I saw so much suffering, so much grief, so much need, so much disaster and I could not hold back my tears. People are hurting and it deeply hurts me and causes me grief and I would like to be there with them.  Maybe I can help them to rebuild their lives and houses, I do not know….. In a couple days I will know where I am going to go in order to support and work with this suffering population.

I still think about the garden of Gethsemane passage where in the middle of the silent and stillness of the night Jesus Christ prayed.
His words are cutting through the dense darkness of these hours.

Sometimes we plan so many things, work so hard to achieve other things; we are overwhelmed with many projects and new challenges. But all such daily worries vanish when you go through a dramatic moment like this.     

The absolute limit of the earth moving beneath  your feet, the power of contingency, the fragility of life,  all these things make us think and reflect deeply about the meaning of our lives, the meaning of our existence.

The day when the earth shook.  That day I was in a room in the Loyola Retreat House, in the Padre Hurtado Community, I was one hour away from Santiago and something like a distant, fictitious and indifferent moon let out its pale light on the world.
-- Eduardo Alonso, SJ

Spreading The Word About Chile

Our colleague in the Missouri Province received copies of the photos of sent by the Jesuits in Chile and was moved to create a slide show. Fr. Tom Rochford, SJ, relates how a community transforms from a place of destruction to a place of new hope. It's beautiful — both the transformation and Fr. Tom's slide show.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hope-filled progress in shattered communities

Images of splintered homes and family treasures tossed and broken are slowly yielding to new, hope-filled scenes of neighbor helping neighbor as simple homes, known as mediaguas are rising to shelter up to 30,000 families who lost their homes in the Feb. 27 earthquake.

David Bruna, a Jesuit scholastic, has sent these photos of construction spearheaded by Un Techo Para Chile (A Roof For Chile). He and another scholastic Javier Celedon, SJ, are among the many students and volunteers wielding hammers across the earthquake scarred landscapes of Chile.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"It is so easy to forget the suffering"

When an earthquake nearly as strong as the February 27th quake shook Chile in 1939, the death and destruction were horrendous. Some 50,000 people were killed and another 60,000 injured. Fr. Alberto Hurtado, SJ, reflected on the immediate—emotional—response and the need to continue to help after the feelings faded. Fr. Eugenio Valenzuela, SJ, sent Fr. Hurtado's text written right after the earthquake in 1939.

“It is easy to awaken our feelings but it is short-lived! It is an emotion that passes by without being noticed. It does not touch our lives. When people are suffering deeply, they do not think or reflect about it!! So it easy to forget the suffering! After the recent earthquake that hit us, many young people were touched by the tragedy and decided to support and serve the affected population, but very quickly they became tourists. They were overwhelmed by the sacrifices that were required of them; they did not think and reflect about that.”

So many have mobilized to offer help

A new president has taken office in Chile and he has made his country's reconstruction part of his agenda but, as Fr. Eugenio Valenzuela, SJ, notes, Jesuits and many volunteers have continued to work — sometimes to the point of utter exhaustion — to come to the aid of victims of the earthquake and tsunami, especially of the very poor.

Here's the Chilean provincial's latest report:

Last Friday the new president took office and it will be a part of his agenda to carry out the reconstruction of the affected areas of the country as well as to support the victims of this tragedy.

There are many people who have suffered physically and emotionally and they need for us to listen to them and support them as they begin to heal. This is a very important dimension of this emergency that we cannot overlook.

Alberto Hurtado University
Right after the earthquake, students from the Alberto Hurtado University volunteered to help the victims. They launched a campaign to collect nonperishable food, clothes, and toiletries.

A group of students decided to work and support a very specific poor area in Santiago called Pichilemu where migrants live. These students in coordination with “El Hogar de Cristo” are providing tents, food, and other supplies to the community as well as helping in the removal of debris and other clean up tasks. Other students are developing recreational and educational programs for the children of this community.

It is also important to emphasize that the entire university community (professors, administrative employees, and students) is making a remarkable effort to support the victims and provide them with different kinds of assistance such as psychological, educational and social services. This initial support to the emergency is turning into a long term developing program for this community. More information can be found at:

Moche Island

We went to Moche Island ito support the distribution of aid sent by “El Hogar de Cristo” and to assess the damage caused by the earthquakes on families’ properties, belongings and their fishing boats.

The families were waiting for us and they were so kind and showed us how they are organizing to meet their basic needs. At the moment that we were visiting a camp, a small tremor shook the island and a little child clung to his mother for dear life and asked her, “Is the sea going to rise again?”

Is the sea going to rise again?

We also went to the area where that the tsunami had destroyed everything.
In coordination with physicians of the island we have developed an emergency program to implement a hygiene and health care plan in the camps which are providing shelter and assistance to the affected people. Day by day we are more aware that we have to develop a greater emotional, physical and spiritual commitment with these poor and suffering people as they rebuild their lives.

Tirua from Isolation to Solidarity
Tirua was one of the most affected cities by the tsunami and the collapse of the communication made the situation more difficult. In Tirua where we have an apostolic work called “The Mapuche Mission,” we sent some more Jesuits to support our brothers who are working with the affected population.

It is important to emphasize that the population here is one of Chile’s poorest and the situation was made worse by the tsunami. Our Jesuit brothers are receiving and distributing food and other donations quickly and efficiently as well as supporting emotionally and spiritually the victims of this tragedy who have not lost their hope in spite of the dramatic circumstances. We noticed that some buildings and the chapel linked to our mission were severely damaged by the tsunami and quake, but we do not have time to evaluate the damages yet.

Migrants: Silent Victims

The Jesuit Service for Migrants (SJM) is making a remarkable effort to support and meet the needs of migrants who are settled in Santiago. After the earthquake all kinds of migrants' needs arose. Thousands who were living in extreme poverty left their cities and went to Santiago after their houses collapsed or became uninhabitable.

In Santiago the SJM in coordination with Jesuits from different provinces have been supporting and providing these victims with shelter, clothing, and food. However, as a consequence of the quake, the cruel face of poverty in which this population is living even before the earthquake was manifested and revealed to us their poor living conditions which challenge our solidarity and love for our neighbors.

“Un Techo Para Chile:” Power and Work Amidst the Desolation
In the few weeks since the earthquake, “Un Techo Para Chile” had built around 300 emergency houses in the most devastated areas. Thousands of university and high school students have volunteered in this reconstruction effort. However, this is only the beginning because in the coming months we need to build thousand more.

Many Jesuits (theologians, juniors, and novices) are also offering psychological and emotional counseling and support to the affected population.

In Iloca a theologian said, “While I am building houses, I look at the group who are working with me and see hope and encouragement arising. However, when I look through the window of the houses and see the desolation surrounding them, how helpless and frustrated I feel.

“Hogar de Cristo” from the seventh to eighth Region: When our strength runs out.
Our institution has been one of the first organizations to develop a network to receive and distribute food, water, and other basic supplies to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. “El Hogar de Cristo” is doing a great job in response to this emergency in many areas affected by this tragedy. We were present in Arauco, Maule, etc., even before the aid from the central government or municipalities arrived.

Although we notice the exhaustion of our brothers who started to work very hard right after the earthquake, we try to support each other.
We are involved in a mission we think is very important “to develop and implement a program of spiritual support in a context of fear and helplessness.”

Finally, this is a reflection from Monsignor Goic who called our Jesuit community asking for some help in order to serve the poor rural areas of his diocese which were affected by the earthquake.

He says, “The situation in the poor rural areas is very painful because of the destruction of houses and chapels. In these areas the priests are working alone and asking for help and volunteers who can serve these rural populations who are living in fear and sadness. In this way the volunteers could be a sign of hope and they will be a sign of a Christian community that is living in solidarity.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Needs for the body and needs for the soul

Fr. Eugenio Valenzuela, SJ, Provincial of the Chilean Jesuits, has visited some of the towns hardest hit by the earthquake and offers this report on efforts to help the people of Chile. Here is what he reported:

This is some updated information about what is going on in Concepcion, Tirua and Curanilahue after Gustavo Macayo and I went to visit these cities.

To clarify the situation, let me transcribe a paragraph written by Jorge Castadoat:
“We found a distressing situation in these cities because of destruction that the earthquake and the tsunami left there. Furthermore, pillaging that happened in these cities has deeply affected and damaged relationships and trust among population.”

 In conclusion, we are very aware that there is a lot of work to do there. Therefore, the reconstruction in these cities should be on different levels. 

• On a material level: building houses and fixing sewage systems and water distribution.

• On an emotional level, most of the people are traumatized by the earthquake and the tsunami and need therapy and support.

• Finally, as a consequence of the social phenomenon (pillage and looting) that happened right after the earthquake, the social fabric was torn and an atmosphere of distrust is developing among the population. In this new social context, we are going to face many new challenges. So it is very important to think and reflect about this new reality, the new facts, and the soul of Chile in order to be more efficient in serving the affected population.  
However, it is very important to emphasize that we have also seen many expression of generosity and solidarity, volunteers working hard, all kinds of donations, etc.  They are signs of hope and expressions of life which in the midst of so much destruction encourage us to keep on working.

Visiting Concepcion, Tirúa and Curanilahue
In Conception we saw the armed forces all over the place and civilians in long lines trying to get food and medicine. In many neighborhoods there is a sense of insecurity and distrust because of the looting in different retail stores.

In Concepcion our brothers are working very hard, helping and supporting the population affected by this tragedy.  The Un techo para Chile factory lacks supplies and basic materials and it is unable to function. In some of the other main cities, Fr. Jorge Delpiano is looking for supplies and equipment in order to restart the factory so they can make mendiaguas (small houses for the victims of the tragedy).

In Tirua, the Jesuit community is coordinating with the local authorities in order to get more donations for the communities.  They are working hard trying to make sure there is an equitable distribution of aid among the communities.  
On our way to Concepcion we visited Caranilahue where Fr. Pablo Walker, SJ, and Fr. Cristian Contreras are working at the El Hogar de Cristo.  In this tiny city the Jesuit Community and local authorities are beginning to coordination things and work together in order to serve better this community.  We were very impressed and taken aback by the extreme poverty of the city.
Migrants in Santiago
Many migrants who came to Santiago because of poverty in their countries are living in poor conditions here and their dwellings are fragile and in bad shape.  After the earthquake many collapsed and a large group of families lost their houses. This is an emergency situation that we have to face and respond to.  We need to find houses that they can afford.  
However, that is a tough task because there are not places and the owners of apartments do not want to rent their places to migrants.  We are trying to ensure that migrants can live in decent conditions with access to housing and other services.

Eugenio Valenzuela SJ
Santiago, Chile

Earthquake an opportunity to love one another

Excerpt from a report by Fr. Jorge Castadoat, SJ

We are facing a catastrophe. However, it may be that there is something more to this. I believe in “something more.”  I think that there is a possibility that this event was a landmark in Chile and the love that we have for Chile could prime, make it grow, and help us to consolidate a more equal, beautiful, compassionate, and just society.  

Who is Chile? Right now that is the question: We are called to turn this catastrophe in a deep love event. Today we will have to take Christ down from the Cross. We have two choices:  to take advantage of this situation with a love that involves all of us or give up and once again and turn our country over to the rascals. Are we going to try to get rid of the social injustice which we have gotten used to or we will continue forgiving the self-seekers?  

I think that we should be more aware of this tremendous opportunity of love which we have imprinted in our blood. It is a love that makes miracles and leads us to serve our crucified neighbors because of this tragedy. 

I refuse to accept that earthquakes are “a proof” from God.  Jesus of Nazareth gave his life for us in order to show us God’s love.   
Earthquakes from the Catholic point of view give us the opportunity to love each other and to believe in love.

I would like to share three things with all of you.   

First, seeing my Jesuit brothers working on the ground, I realize that they are seeking creative ways to serve and support their communities. In this way, they are making the same effort that resurrected Jesus Christ made “consoling people.”   

Second, facing up to the magnitude of the catastrophe and the mistrust as a consequence of the tsunami and looting, a question about the reconstruction arises. Reconstruction should be an integrated mission which should imply the material reconstruction as well as the reconstruction of the social fabric.     

And third, this new development has to lead us to develop strong commitments with the reconstruction of the cities as well as with our neighbors who are suffering from the devastating consequences of the earthquake.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's only minor damage but...

The historic church in Calera de Tango was spared major damage from the recent earthquake in Chile — yet pictures of the minor damages are still powerful.

Fr. Gene Rooney, SJ, a Maryland Jesuit ministering in Chile, sent photos from the church in Calera de Tango where he was chaplain from 1971 to 1986.

Although the church, built about 1750, survived the earthquake, it suffered some damage: including broken statues and cracks in the walls.

The church, located in a town just south of the capital of Santiago, is a Chilean historical monument. Fr. Jose Juan Vergara, the present chaplain, took the photos.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chile se la pueda--Chile you can do it!

Fr. Eugenio Valenzuela, SJ, Jesuit provincial of Chile, has reported on damage after the earthquake in Chile and efforts to bring order back to the country. Here's what he had to say today:

In most of our apostolic works we can count on the help of expert professionals assessing the damage caused by the earthquake to our equipment and buildings. However, we know that we have to replace our damaged equipment and to seek ways to repair some of them.

Listening everyday to the news about how the earthquake and the tsunami have affected and damaged our country, we are more aware that we have to face a hard and long reconstruction in our country.

We are launching campaigns in order to collect food, water, diapers, mattresses, blankets, tents, etc. Some are also aimed at recruiting volunteers. All these donations are going to be sent to the most affected areas of our country. Hogar de Cristo coordinates the donations shipments. Christian Life Communities support the campaigns led by Un Techo Para Chile with volunteers in Hogar de Cristo and also building housing and making arrangements for hosting migrants.

All the members of the Jesuit communities in Santiago are supporting in many ways the different initiatives by: volunteering, repairing houses, hosting victims of the earthquake, etc.


Communications between one part of the city to the other one are broken. Three of the four bridges are not working. One bridge is working without any kind of technical evaluation or study. Today the Chilean army is trying to build an emergency bridge. Many buildings have to be demolished and the oldest buildings have collapsed.

Talcahuano, which is the port of Concepcion and the most important and largest port in the country, was destroyed by the earthquake.

As a response to this tragedy, the community of Concepcion has been organizing itself block by block for surveillance, forming soup kitchens, and to take care of children
Don Ricardo, Bishop of Concepcion said that many pastors and priests are working hard in order to support and help their parish communities. As always, the local Catholic Church is a natural place where communities can get relief and aid to meet their needs. He also said that many churches collapsed and others including the Cathedral were severely damaged.

Since the catastrophe happened we got all hands on deck and have launched a national campaign “!CHILE SE LA PUEDE!” which means “Chile you can do it.” Through this campaign we encourage people to make their donations (money, non-perishable food, blankets, coal, diapers, etc.). It is a successful campaign so far and we have had a great response from the Chilean population as well as from many volunteers who are joining us from different parts of our country. This shows the strong commitment and solidarity that many people have with other Chileans who are suffering.

However, there are thousands of victims of this powerful earthquake that are waiting for our support and assistance.

Hogar de Cristo has in all its apostolic works and foundations a common time to pray and reflect and invites everyone to join in prayer with their workers, volunteers, guests, and the community.

Our institution already sent 100 volunteers to southern Chile. They have started to build 20 emergency houses. This is part of the reconstruction program asked of us by Chile government. The goal is to build 30,000 emergency houses in the most affected areas. At the same time other professionals from Un Techo para Chile are already assessing the damage in situ (in the affected areas). Everyday buses with volunteers are leaving Santiago for Constitucion where reconstruction has begun. Also about 3,000 volunteers are working in the removal of debris in the city of Santiago.

Thanks to Ana Maria Goonan for her translation of Fr. Valenzuela's report.

Volunteers to build new housing

Un Techo Para Mi Pais and Un Techo Para Chile, which recently received a visit and vote of support from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, have set a goal to build 30,000 emergency houses this year for earthquake victims in Chile.

The Chilean government, through President Michelle Bachelet, formalized support to the organizations to take charge of the reconstruction efforts there.

Rafael Achondo, of Un Techo, wrote to supporters last week to express his gratitude for the response that has already come in.

"In emergencies of this scale human capital is critical, and we really appreciate the thoughts, e-mails, phone calls, and to realize that we really have you all supporting our endeavor with the most neediest families in the continent," he wrote.

Already, he said, 6,000 university volunteers have offered to travel to where families need the most help. Jesuit scholastics from Santiago, Chile's capital, are among the volunteers going to Concepcion to work with Un Techo.

"That shows that the future of the country is in good hands, led by people with a deep social commitment," he wrote.

The volunteer send-off was led by the Chilean President-Elect Sebastian Pinera and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Help for Chile's Earthquake Victims

When the 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, Feb. 27, our thoughts went immediately to all the Jesuits we know there. Were they safe? What had happened to their churches, their homes, their schools?

And how could we help?

The Maryland Province immediately got to work to set up the Chile Relief Fund to wire aid to the our friends and brothers, the Chilean Jesuits, to be used by two Jesuit-directed organizations, Hogar de Cristo and Un Techo para Chile.

Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ) founded by St. Alberto Hurtado, SJ, is a comprehensive aid organization that is working with the National Emergency Office (Chile’s FEMA) to provide food, blankets, diapers and charcoal throughout the country.

Un Techo Para Chile (A Roof For Chile), a Habitat for Humanity style organization which provides housing for the poor, in coordination with the schools, Christian Life Communities, Alberto Hurtado University and Infocap school, is working with volunteers to clear rubble, rebuild houses and construct temporary one-room shelters.

The Maryland Province has had a long-standing relationship with Chile since the first Maryland Jesuits went to work in Chile 51 years ago. The Maryland and Chilean provinces formalized their relationship with a twinning agreement.

Eugenio Valenzuela, SJ, Chilean provincial, has sent reports to William C. Rickle, SJ, provincial assistant for Latino migration and ministry, noting that with each report from around Chile, the news continues to get worse and the need for aid more obvious.
To make a donation, send your check, made payable to “Maryland Province Jesuits Fund” to Maryland Province Jesuits Fund, P.O. Box 64818, Baltimore, MD 21264. Write the notation “Chile Relief Fund” on your check. To make a donation online, go to and click on the Chile Relief Fund link.

In the meantime, we'll keep posting updates on all that is happening to help the victims of this most devastating earthquake.