CEIBA received a call early Friday morning from Ivette, who is the leader of Community Commission for Civil Protection in her sector, El Borborllon, that her neighbor Juana's house was on the point of a collapse. A HUGE sink hole (in El Salvador, we call them carcavas), had formed right on Juana's Patio. We arrived in the afternoon to check out the carcava, nearly 7 meters tall and 5 meters wide. Looked like this:
To fix a "carcava", you need to fill it. With cement, sticks, and stones. You need heavy machinary. You need materials. It would probabaly cost thousands of dollars. What to do?
I remembered that we had left a roll of black tarp here in Joya Grande last year. Jonathan, a CEIBA volunteer, convinced me that we had to give communities responsibility to take care of the tarp, and was sure they would save it til next year (I wasn't so convinced). In the end, he was right. As stood at Don Cleto's door, leader of sector Zacatera (another member of the Communal Commission for Civil Protection, which CEIBA trained and formed last year), I was astounded as he ran into his home, and dragged out a dusty roll of black tarp. YES! He kept it safely, waiting for the right emergency. That emergency would be today. As I showed Cleto (or Mr. (Meeester) Clay, as I call him) the pictures of the carcava, he was instantly upset, "Why didn't Ivette CALL me sooner?!?"
It was 5:30 p.m. I knew we had 30 minutes of light left. I thought to myself....lets wait til tommorrow morning? Mr. Clay looked at me puzzled. No Beth, we have to take care of this NOW. If it rains tonite, the water could wash away the remaining 3 feet between the edge of the hole and the foundation of Josue's house. Mr. Clay ran into his house, changed in 7 seconds, and ran back out.
"Let's Go. Call Ivette, I need at least 4 men." Mr. Clay also called Oscar, sector leader of la playa, who came running to meet us. We passed a truck of policemen on the way. Norma, a CEIBA volunteer for the day, called out to them, "Hey, we need help in El Borborllon. Its an emergency. Will you help us lay the tarp before nightfall?"
And the police response, "Sure, be there in a bit."
and Norma: "No. Now. We need you to follow us right this second. And see than man running? (referring to Oscar, a 50+ year old man fervishly running up from the lakeshore), get him in the back of your pick-up!" Norma rarely takes no for an answer. Wait, she NEVER takes no for an answer!
We drove the car up the riverbed as far as we could, and walked another 500 meters to the carcava. As we approached Ivette, she was already waiting with her husband and 2 other men to help. and of course, at least 15 neighbors came to watch. As we stretched out the plastic, we realized it was ALMOST enough to cover the hole. As if we had planned to save just that amount of tarp for a situation just this size...
One major glitch. We have no rope! Mr. Clay exclaimed that we need rope to stake down the tarp and stretch it exactly so that rain water glides right over the hole, instead of continuing to eat at the side of the hole. Rope? Ivette? Who as rope? As all the adults shook their heads, Josue remembered: I HAVE ROPE! Josue, 6 year old, was a participant in our pilot project of children's disaster prevention in the Borborllon. CEIBA gave each child an "emergency kit backpack" of harnesses, first aid supplies, whistles, flashlights and....4 meters of rope!!! The kids all went running like a bat outta hell towards their homes to find their ropes in their backpacks. Children's Emergency Committee El Borborllon in action!
|Josue with his blue rope, measuring about 2.5 Josues long|
Meanwhile, I phone our "municipal delegate of Civil Protection," whom the community had been phoning all morning. I flusteredly explained to him that this was a real emergency, and why didn't he come?!?! This house could fall over at any second. Mr. "municipal delegate" explained to me that:
a. it was not his job to check out carcavas, that was for another government department and that
b. I should tell the family to leave their home. ?!?!
TO WHERE??? sigh. such is generally the response we get from local government here in Santiago Texacuangos.
Norma tried another strategy: the governor. He answered, but could barely hear Norma due to the poor phone signal in this remote mountainous area. He promised to stay "pendiente" , or keep an eye out, on the emergency, and that he would call the head of Police to do rounds all night to watch future formation of the carcava and possible damage to Josue's house.
|Norma, with Grecia, Josue and Maybi. Amish in the background.|
"25 yards!" I exclaimed.
and how much does that cost?
"about 20 bucks!" full well knowing the price of plastic tarp after having bought at least 600 yards of it over the past year.
"and who's the treasurer here???"
kids can save their own home. So here's to our heroes of the night, Grecia, Nataniel, Maybi, and Josue! QUE VIVA EL COMITE DE EMERGENCIA INFANTIL EL BORBORLLON!
On the walk back, Norma called Fredy to tell him how Josue, his Star Helper, had saved his home.
|Fredy Viera, one of CEIBA's Volunteer Trainers leading children||in a Disaster Drill.|
|Josue learning how to make a split on Giovany's arm|
Thanks to the generosity of the Sladek Family, Fred Sanchez, and CEIBA donors from our Indianapolis tour, we will be launching our second Children's Emergency Committee in sector La Marmonera, where 2 children where buried alive during landslides of Hurricane Ida, November 2009. We hope to teach these children new skills like first-aid, evacuation routes, and of course, why its important to have a rope around. I think we will even bring Josue the day we give emergency backpacks to these 25 new children, so he can explain the importance of saving every item in the back pack for real emergencies, and of course, tell the story of how he saved his house.
Sources: Peek, Lori. 2008. Children and Disasters: Understanding Vulnerability, Developing Capacities, and Promoting Resilience- An Introduction. Children, Youth and Environments 18(1), p2-29.