Monday, March 29, 2010
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
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.”
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: www.movilizatehurtadiano.tk
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
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
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
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
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.
REGIONS AND APOSTOLIC WORKS
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.
HOGAR DE CRISTO
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.
UN TECHO PARA CHILE
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.
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
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 www.mdsj.org 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.