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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Maybe we can’t build houses with dignity for these people in need…





Maybe we can’t build houses with dignity for these people in need…
Maybe we cannot execute risk reduction engineering or construct bridges or new schools en these communities affected by the rains, but we can share our desire to truly make things better, with the people, listening to their ideas and nneds, their experiences and their life histories which are truly impactful…

It rains, I am sick, El Salvador finds itself in an orange alert, the community where we work are highly vulnerable, Mercedes calls me on the phone “We need coats and flashlights for the emergency committees in the community…” I cant drive, I call Tito, a friend who works at the health clinic in my city, his schedule is 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, but without thinking twice he leaves work and accompanies me to the community El Sauce, its raining hard, the road is slick with fog and heavy traffic, there are landslides of soil and some car crashes in the road, the sky is an intense blue and I don’t know why it occurs to me that it looks like enormous angel wings and will protect us on our way.

Arriving to the community, the Army of the United States is there, observing and analyizing future aid in the reconstruction of the community, a delegate from the municipality is there (although he has NEVER been here), the river is rising, the water tanks looks threatened, Don Ramon a community leader accompanies the tour, we must cross a provisional bridge made by the community due to the old bridge being destroyed in Ida, its made of wires and bamboo…

The army marches and the municipal delegate too, but we first make clear that the the mayor’s office has never had any kind of plan or interest in helping the communities, Mercedes has organized an entire logistical organization by sectors. She found a safe house where families can find refuge, already there are 10 families when I arrive, we make the decision to evacuate the people that live alongside the river. We arrive at Don Ramon’s house, a sheet metal house where 6 people live, 1 woman and 5 children, la house is in the middle of a river and an earthen wall looms 50 meters high above…its heavy with rain..

She should leave to save her life and the life of her children, we tell the woman but she, terrified, responds, “I can’t I need to watch my things!” I ask myself then, what is more important, life or our countable things? “To what end would it serve me to leave when I always must return” At the end, she tells us she might stop by the shelter later. In the shelter, the committee is taking census of children, boys and girls, elderly, women, and men there sheltered. They try to manage aid with other institutions. A landslide with trees is obstructing the street and destroyed the roof of one house. A child was battered by the incident…

I should go back to San Salvador to buy flashlight and coats for the emergency committee who does not have the necessary equipment. I am worried because throughout the night the risk increases, and the community should be prepared, and again the same scence of traffic, landslides, accidents, fog, and more rain. We buy the equipment necessary for the committee, return to the community and MORE families have joined the shelter. They retain the value of their lives and lives of their children. The mayor sends some food and mattresses for the shelter, people are closer to their homes and feel safer in this community shelter than in the municipal one. And someone is already trying to remove the mud from the road and cut the enormous tree that fell on the house.
Its cold. My clothes are wet to the max. I feel sick, but inside something tells me that I am doing the right thing. I don’t know why someone nears me and tells me “thanks you Jonathan, you have been our guardian angels…” Never have I seen this man in the community but in his eyes an internal light shines his gratitude… I look around and 2 children are playing with toy cars and laugh worry-free of the situation, the adults wait in the shelter..like something is saying “the rain will pass and we are alive…”

I should return…I don’t want to but I should, something in mi tell sme that the communities will be ok because they are organized, Mercedes is always ready and communicates with me any situation in which help is needed…

As I return I look at the rain and smile, and say to myself, our efforts are worth the energy although we cannot construct houses and bridges for the communities, we can change their lives and demonstrate to them that they are the most important in our projects, that the people do not feel alone at the hour of disaster, that they know that there are people like us that risk our lives without thinking twice to help them… I think it is true that we do not have the capacity to execute projects of necessary infrastructure but we CAN organize the people and give them knowledge and collaboration. It rains, and I return home, I know that the communities will be ok because they are organized and because I believe that the blue sky are the wings of a guardian angel that protects us because he knows that God is on our side…

Jonathan Velasquez, Accountant/Lawyer, Colectivo CEIBA

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