Here is an account of our second trip to Constitución, one of the coastal towns of Chile that suffered severe damage from the February 27th earthquake and subsequent tidal wave that totally destroyed the waterfront and central part of the city. This time we made a caravan of four cars loaded with supplies and volunteers.
When we handed out the items that we had brought, we heard story after story of those who had lost their homes and loved ones. People really wanted to tell their stories, and a listening ear was as much appreciated as the food and clothing. There were beautiful accounts of miracles and answered prayers, as well as stories of those who had friends or loved ones who lost their lives as they were rescuing others. We were met with such a wide range of needs that we are still trying to fathom the monumental job of reconstruction that is before Chile, and we pray that we can be a blessing. It is an honor and privilege to serve such noble and humble people.
On his last trip, my husband Jonathan had met a group of women, wives of fishermen, who lived close to the shore. Their families have absolutely nothing, not a shred of their former homes. But they are sweet and courageous, still in good humor, though battling fear and uncertainty. One woman said, “We used to all swim in those waters, now we look at it with fear.” Thanks to a generous donation we were able to buy wholesale warm pajamas for men, women and children, which they were very thankful for.
We had met a woman who works in the municipality, and she knew where the greatest needs were. She drove us to several apartment buildings that had been damaged by the earthquake so we could drop off supplies. The apartment dwellers are sleeping in tents and cooking outside in makeshift communal kitchens, as their apartment buildings are unstable now. There was one four-story apartment building with outside stairs that came loose during the earthquake; they are now hanging by a few wobbly bolts. The families have to take their chances going up the stairs if they have to get anything from their apartments. The economy in this town is at a virtual standstill, the fishing industry, the cellulose factory, and the shops in the downtown area are all damaged and awaiting repair. Many people here live day to day, or paycheck to paycheck, and so even those who still have homes are missing their basic needs right now because of lack of supplies. I just can’t do the subject justice.
With our group of 11, we improvised a show for the displaced who are basing out of one of the schools which has now been turned into a shelter. The young people sang and did action songs with the kids. I was a clown, we made balloon figures, Jonathan organized games, and we passed out prizes, snack bags, and hygiene kits.
We also went to a camp of makeshift wooden shelters. Every little cabin had its own story, but the last person we talked to really touched us deeply. Teresa is a hairdresser whose shop in the center of town was totally destroyed. She told us that she feels so free now—without a single possession and that she had a “rebirth” from this experience, as she is now free to enjoy the simple things in life. Mercifully she found under the mud and wreckage of her shop a pair of haircutting scissors and just enough equipment to cut hair within the camp. She spreads faith and cheer wherever she goes.
With the donations that we received for this trip, we bought warm winter pajamas; towels, toothbrushes, shampoo, toothpaste, razors, etc., to make hygiene kits; children’s books and simple toys; and some devotional books on faith and courage. By buying wholesale and getting discounts we were able to stretch the funds to buy an incredible amount of items. The other members of our team brought powdered milk, flour, oil, rice, noodles, toilet paper, donated clothing, and canned fish. Someone also donated a huge bag of dry dog food for all the abandoned doggies roaming the streets!
I hope that this gives you a little bit of a glimpse into the world we are living in at the moment. Our heads are swimming with all that needs to be done, and our hearts are moved with compassion for the people here. We will continue our trips to the south to bring supplies to the earthquake and flood victims. The timing is crucial as the rainy season and winter will soon be upon us. We are thankful for all the support we have received to help us in our endeavor. Every donation and every prayer goes a long way and is greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.
Originally Published in 2010.