I didn’t quite know what I would see in Chile prior to my arrival there on April 15. After all, it is not too often that an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter Scale hits anywhere, much less a developing country. On the other hand, Chile was no longer in the news and the requests for international aid were few in the wake of the disaster. In fact, even though the earthquake in Haiti occurred towards the beginning of January, it still never seemed to relinquish center stage after February 27, the day the earthquake in Chile took place. I was in Haiti at the time doing my part to help with the difficulties there. I would soon learn that it was not because there was no significant damage that we heard so little about the earthquake in Chile. There were other factors. Stay tuned.
After a very nice welcome in the community in Parral, Marco and I headed to the nearby hospital to visit with the directors and see the effects of the earthquake there. I wanted to assess the situation and then see if we might be able to develop a common plan to help the people of Parral. The winter was coming and the directors were concerned: their bed capacity had been diminished by 50 and they were attending to patients in a series of tents provided by the Japanese Red Cross. The destruction was impressive: the whole rectangular area at the back of the hospital structure as seen in the photo in the pre-earthquake picture below had been destroyed.
At the meeting with the directors, we agreed to look at continuing to collaborate in the following areas:
- Providing psychospiritual assistance to patients (Patricia, Sr. Haida, Sr. Alfonsa)
- Providing humanitarian assistance to patients
- Providing medical care and pastoral support for those suffering from chronic medical conditions (Sr. Fatima)
- Providing social assistance services (Sebastian)
We also discussed the possibility expanding our project to include:
- Medical care through visiting physicians, especially orthopedics care
- Providing a fabricated structure for hospital beds (40-50)
- Collaboration in implementing a program to study and treat PTSD in staff and children
We took the whole day meeting with people, touring the hospital, visiting with patients, assessing the damage done to the structure, discussing possible solutions and enjoying a meal as well.
During the evening we relaxed a bit in the community and had a meeting to get to know each other and discuss the status of the project. It was a good moment of fraternity, and I was quite happy to see the progress we had made.
We had started our relief efforts by providing immediate humanitarian assistance via mobile vehicles and then we worked out of a base in Linares (the community of the Sisters of St. Camillus). Finally, we opened a community in Parral and are now providing care there and in Cauquenes. Yes, we are moving forward in helping the people affected by the earthquake. Our efforts are bearing fruit – particularly under the guidance of Fr. Pietro Magliozzi, MI and due to the good work of Sebastian, Patricia, and Alicia, the core of both the community in Parral and the relief effort. There is still much to do though. Please pray for us and those we are serving.