Scared but standing together

By Heidi Isaza in Chile.

Children are frightened in the Bio Bio region of Chile. (WV staff)

It’s been 10 days now since Chile was rudely awakened by a 8.8 earthquake at 3:30 a.m., causing buildings to fall and a tsunami wave which pushed big fishing vessels hundreds of meters inland and wiped whole towns off the map. Things are much peaceful now. Reports of robberies and looting have all but disappeared. In fact, yesterday, 25 percent of the stolen goods were voluntarily returned to their rightful owners.

Nevertheless, as the world begins to move on with the Oscars and March Madness, the survivors of the earthquake in Chile are just getting warmed up for the marathon of recovery that lies before them. I have heard people say that it is going to take 10 years for life to return to “normal” in the Bio Bio region. It will take time for lives to be rebuilt and for commerce to grow again. Many of these tasks will be technical, requiring knowledge, expertise, and materials. But perhaps the most important need is restoring the emotional stability of the people who survived—especially the children.

World Vision brought in relief goods to heavily damaged areas via helicopter. (Heidi Isaza/WV)

“I don’t want to be in Dichato anymore, because I am scared,” 10-year-old Rachell told me, outside the preschool where she and her family found temporary housing along with 17 other families. “I am scared that there will be another earthquake,” she said. Rachell remembers the earthquake that shook her awake and the wave that followed them up the hill as they ran for safety. She remembers when they went back the next day to see their house. There was nothing left.

Every child I have talked to in Dichato, Lota, and Concepción is scared. They have bad dreams at night and they tremble every time there is a strong aftershock.

In the absence of functioning schools, World Vision is helping to bring some normalcy and routine back into these children’s lives. Our Child-Friendly Spaces are a place where they can go to have fun, learn, and talk about what they feel.

A boy is among many displaying the Chilean flag with pride. (Heidi Isaza/WV)

In spite of all of the difficulties before them, the people of Chile are standing together through this tragedy. Neighborhoods have formed impromptu camps. Food is cooked and shared by whole communities. And everywhere you go, among fallen buildings, along beaches scattered with debris, and tents covered with black plastic, you see the Chilean flag proudly raised. That tells me that the people of Chile will stand again—all they need is a helping hand.

World Vision has worked in Chile for the past 30 years and we are not about to leave now—not when they need us the most.

Related: Against the Tide (March 3, 2010), Chile: A First Look (March 3, 2010), Back to Chile (March 1, 2010)

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Filed under Chile earthquake, On Assignment

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