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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Project El Colibrí - La Cruz, Bahia de Caraquez

We have just returned to Ecuador after being away for 7 weeks enjoying a cruise, wonderful visit and adventures with family and friends.  We are now facing the harsh reality the earthquakes here have caused.  Death, injury, incredible destruction and loss.  The 7.8 magnitude quake which struck Ecuador's coast on April 16 has been followed by 2,284 more tremors up to 6.8 in strength. The entire world has watched and been captivated by the resilience of Ecuadorians in this tragic earthquake. The generous response of communities throughout Ecuador has been inspirational. A summary documentary, videos, and photos of the devastation may be found here.








This week, nearly two months after the earthquake,  we traveled to the coast with food, clothing, and other supplies from Mikhuna  and Hearts of Gold   in Cuenca for a  small poor neighbourhood of 32 families in the hills above Bahia de Caraquez known as barrio " La Cruz. " 


 

 

These families have lost everything and are living in temporary shelters on a fairly level shady area half way up the hill.  When we arrived they had been without water for ten days ! 

 

While they have received minimal assistance they are resilient and in good health and spirits. They have basic sanitation, water when delivered is stored in a variety of vessels, they have electricity for their minimal needs, and refugee style shelters.  

 

They have communal refrigeration and a washing machine. Their chickens and ducks range freely, and there are several dogs for pets and security. The children await the set-up of a temporary facility for returning to school. 

 

Their local church is no longer safe. They are earnestly trying to rebuild their lives, and their independence and pride keeps them from asking for help.  While they continue to work hard, most are now unemployed without any future job prospects within this community.   



Our heartfelt plea to all of our international family and friends is to join us in providing support to help this neighbourhood rebuild their simple and basic lifestyle with dignity. The need is genuinely severe and we would ask that you pass our fundraising request along to your family and friends, school classrooms, churches, and other social groups and networks. Help us create another good news story in the midst of this tragedy.


Youcaring donation - El Colibrí -  Earthquake Relief -La Cruz,  Bahia de Caraquez


We will be personally administering the funds, co-ordinating efforts, and " rolling up our sleeves and volunteering manual labour ".  Every penny will go to sustain the basic needs of these humble people to ensure  they continue to have sufficient food, water, and required medicines, and receive the necessary support to  re-establish their lives, and help break the " cycle of poverty." Working together with the families to help them re-build their homes using safe building standards so they may leave their temporary shelter. If excess resources are received, the grassroots support will be expanded to other " forgotten " neighbourhoods with demonstrated unmet need.   

While in Canada we witnessed overwhelmingly successful support efforts  for the Alberta, Fort McMurray wildfires, and although devastating,  the disparity in economic levels is such where Canadians after their losses have far more than the people in Ecuador ever had before their tragedy !  

We collectively thank you from the bottom of our hearts for any help you are able to provide. There is nothing more fulfilling than extending a helping hand to those in need.




Follow the success story and heartfelt gratitude. 


Currently we are seeking :

                         2 - 750 ltr Plastigama water storage tanks
                         miscellaneous medications
                         adult diapers
                         dog food
                         2 small boys bicycles
                         2 small girls bicycles


                        
Origin of our Project name -  El Colibrí

 
Small, beautiful, and varied the colibrí  depends on the nectar from the flower, and is always hours away from starving to death. It provides the vital role of pollination for many fruits and flowers. Emblematic for their vigor, energy, and propensity to work hard.  Similarly these beautiful, industrious people depend on pachamama ( mother earth )  for their basic needs, playing a vital role in the community.    










Observations and assessment from our coastal visit.

We only traveled as far north as Canoa - here are some first hand observations for the northern coastal area  Perdenales, Muisne, and Jama.

We found all roads now passable. Slides have been cleared from roadways, temporary repairs to bridge access ramps, and significant cracks filled with debris. Road surface buckling, separation and undulating pavement was still present, so one must exercise caution when driving, particularly for bridge access ramps.      

The Ecuadorians are working hard to clean up the mess left by the earthquake and keep everybody safe. Most people seem to be surviving at a basic level fairly well, settling in as life returns to some normalcy - albeit different. They are in remarkably good spirits, but the economy is suffering.  The complaints we received were from wealthy folks whose local business was suffering, or they had experienced significant financial losses. The hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that are open are begging for customers.

Frankly we were surprised at seemingly little visible damage or destruction in Manta and Portoviejo, although in both cities the quake claimed 200 lives.  While these larger cities captured the bulk of aid resources and media attention, their damage is primarily the older central areas of town representing much less than 10 % of the total city. Their " tent shelters " seem to already have been dismantled.  In contrast 95 % of the buildings in the communities of Bahia de Caraquez, Canoa, & Perdenales were damaged.   The reality here for many living under canopies of plastic sheeting, or salvaged metal, or tents will probably last for a year or more.   Many residents have left these communities and are  temporarily living with family or friends elsewhere. Many of our expat friends from this area have decided to move out of the country and away from the Pacific Rim of Fire. 

Our experience in Bahia was of the sounds of heavy equipment demolishing structures, demolition concrete dust filling the air, and an " eery ghostlike " absence of human presence.  Mounds of dirt and debris are built adjacent to multi-story buildings so heavy equipment can reach high enough to knock down the buildings safely.    Even though there is still a significant presence of both apartment towers and homes that " appear unscathed " upon closer examination in Bahia de Caraquez  you will frequently find the red  " notice requiring demolition."  Virtually all of the apartment towers in Bahia de Caraquez remain uninhabitable with most being unsafe and irreparable.  Several have yellow notices requiring a more detailed technological inspection with specialized equipment to determine the " structural integrity. "  We have learned that due to the undulating nature of this quake, the point at which the towers swayed, ( normally near the first or second floor )  caused the reinforced steel in the structural support pillars to repeatedly bend, stretching and then ballooning.  As a structural pillar descends deep into the ground built on a significant base this support is now compromised at the point of swaying and fails to  provide the remaining upper floors the required structural integrity. We witnessed furniture and appliances from upper level apartments being lowered outside the buildings by rope as it is no longer safe within the central building. They are preparing to demolish the towers, several actually newly constructed.  Another building practice common in Bahia de Caraquez  was for the owners to " gain significant additional space " by placing the structural pillars on the edge of their property then extending upper floors construction by a metre or two to extend over public sidewalks or roadways.  The edificio Nautilus is a prime example of this construction practice and currently is fenced off and labelled as highly dangerous.  




Property values will stagnate or drop as a result of this recent event.  Although it is well documented that earthquakes have been a regular occurrence every 25 years in this region for the last several hundred years.    



 Former gas tankers snake through city streets, re-purposed to now supply water for those in temporary shelters and residents with cisterns. The difficulty is they are too large to navigate successfully into many residential areas or hillside encampments.

Two military wire fenced compounds capable of housing 150 families have been created on the outskirts of both Canoa and Bahia ( near terminal terreste )  While this controlled environment is perhaps an effective way for authorities and relief agencies to provide services, and resource distribution, it is fraught with issues and not very well received by those requiring the assistance. Set on sterile dry ground under the burning sun is row after row of evenly spaced, identical, blue tents providing basic housing for families.  Around the encampment perimeter are the military personnel quarters,  medical facilities, pharmacy, and administration.  Porta toilets and  showers on the rear perimeter.  There is some recreational space, and a tent facility for socializing. Stories of discontent by the occupants are rampant.  Residents have no autonomy, and must follow countless rules. They have to abandon their property, pets, neighbours, chickens, ducks, visitors, and lifestyles to reside here for minimal assistance.    




Politics are becoming strenuous, and polarized. It is very difficult in the latin business environment to co-ordinate efforts in any single direction, or forfeit personal agendas for the greater good of the community as a whole. Associations are often not collaborative and usually embrace the strongest members agenda.  Participation and feedback are often culturally foreign concepts here. Instead of coordinating authorities creating designated dumping areas - tons of rubble and debris is being hauled away to the closest " out-of-sight " place - in some cases this is on remote beaches, or along major roadways.  This is creating an unsightly and environmental disaster that will require dealing with once again.

Some opportunistic entrepreneurs are taking advantage and have raised prices significantly.  For example we found key building supplies were priced 300 % higher than in a neighbouring community. Similarly food and water prices had increased supposedly to cover the vendor's added damage repair expenses.

Health and wellness centres are currently " trending " and seem to be being established everywhere from various foundations funding. They all require medical staffing, continuing resources to be sustainable, and they are competing for clients.

A small group is pressing for the re-opening of the airport in San Vicente for tourism.  There was insufficient traffic before the earthquake to economically support an airport - there is far less now.  They have the " cart before the horse. "  They need to rebuild and create an attractive, dynamic environment with tourist activities prior to " needing an airport " to bring tourists.  

For all of the above reasons we strongly recommend your support be channeled through a " grass roots organization " already operating within and familiar  with the communities needs.  We collectively thank you from the bottom of our hearts for any help you are able to provide. There is nothing more fulfilling than extending a helping hand to those in need.

You will be able to follow the success story and heartfelt gratitude here :

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Bahia de Caraquez, Manabi, Ecuador