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