How we can help from the United States: (53825.41 Raised for Santiago Texacuangos) Donations to Friends of
Santa Maria are not tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

the great flood of 2011

its been an incredible, exhausting, insanely wet 10 days. tropical depression 12 hovered over the salvadoran coast for the past 10 days or so, dumping down more raining than hurricane mitch. in some places, more than a meter and a half. there has been an incredibly low death count by my analysis, to which the Salvadoran government and the system of Civil Protecion (El Salv's FEMA) deserve huge kudos for precautionary and lifesaving evacuations. while only 34 lives were lost, more than 55,000 were evacuated, and more than a million people effected. the economic costs are yet to be covered- but will include the loss of houses, stores, businesses, and the entire bean and corn harvest of 2011 for many families.

In Santiago Texacuangos alone, there were 586 people sheltered in 6 locations; 3 in the town center and 3 communaly run shelters in la Cuchilla, El Sauce, and Shaltipa, respectively. CEIBA offered support to nearly all of these shelters, in addition to 2 shelters in Santo Tomas, a nearby region. We aided in food, water, toothbrushes, toothpaste, clothing, maxipads, diapers, soap, floss, and coordinated with various organizations such as Anmutsipical, SSPAS, CIPJES, Generacion Ochentas, Caritas, and others. Probabaly our largest contribution was the immaterial; the puppet shows, the movie showings, painting classes, and the use of hundreds of crayons to start a process of psychosocial intervention with at least 350 children (and maybe more). We gave motivational speeches in the community run shelter of El Sauce, taught community members how to fill out shelter statstics forms, and much much more. So far, we have raised $2,000!!!!!! and have yet to spend all of it. The rains have stopped for today, so what we didn't spend on relief, we will surely need to spend on reconstruction.....

Here are some pictures with some good stories from the week (though there are so many more to be told)

1. candlelit spaghetti dinner. this was the most beautiful moment for me in all of the tragedy- eating spaghetti with my fingers in the shelter in El Sauce with the children. We have no utensils, but we did have hot (and really bland!) spaghetti. Since the electricity had been out ALL day, CEIBA pitched in with the community leaders to buy 20 candles for the shelter, so that we could eat by candle light. After noticing the teary eyes of the exhausting community leaders who has been running the shelter for 5 days straight, CEIBA decided to give a pep talk of sorts, encouraging the community to keep supporting their leaders and pitch in to run what we have dubbed "The 5 star shelter" when compared with nearly every shelter we has seen. This shelter was clean, dry, participatory, organized into commissions and felt so much happier than EVERYWHERE else. The adults camped out at the edges of the building, so the kids could run around in the middle.

2. destroyed home, el sauce.
This is the reason the El Sauce shelter filled so quick (over 80 people in a small small room). In the early hours of the morning (Sunday October 17th), the wall fell in on this humble home. Thank goodness the leader of the youth group, Tito, happens to live across the street, and jumped into action to pull the 6 person family out of the rubble. Its hard to tell in this picture, that there used to be a home here. The future of where this family will live now that the rains have unknown.

3. Kevin and the Indy 500
In one of the ugliest moments of the disaster, when the first shelter opened in Friday Oct. 13th, with the first few families from Joya Grande (which would later grow to nearly 200 families from Joya), this family was standing around, looking terrified, just waiting for what to do next. I pulled some chairs out of the school director's office, and frantically began to search through the bags of dry clothes to get the soaking children a little warmer. These 2 characters, Erik, and Kevin, choose the Indy 500 shirt, and their eyes opened
in delight as I explained the wonders of cars racings hundreds of miles an hour around a huge track.....
4. drawing water is rain.
the same friday evening, we traveled to a far away rural shelter of Las Casitas in Santo Tomas (which soon got moved closer into town, thank goodness). I literally watched a landslide fall 3 second IN FRONT of my car on the way home. We did some initial diagnostics with these kids...who only drew rain. one 5 year old drew his destroyed grandmother's home with ghosts all around it, signifying his fear.        

5. finger paint. crayons are pretty exciting (most kids in your average salvadoran home probabaly do not own any) but finger paint is even MORE exciting. Karina's innocent and excited and ENOURMOUS brown eyes couldn't contain their excitement for the finger paint. she drew this. 

6. vulnerability in shaltipa
 this community didn't completely lose any houses- but almost. this landslide ripped down the hillside through an urban area, forcing nearly 30 families into community run shelters in churches and schools. The back wall on the house on the right could cave in any second. Though the rains have stopped for now, the saturation  in the soil is preventing many familys from returning home just yet- any little old thundershower could send a landslide toppling all the homes in this picture over like dominoes. 

7. How old am I?
These tiny tiny boys with very rotten teeth appear to be 3 or for years old... think again! They are 7 and 8! These little munchkins, malnourished for sure, continuously giggled and tugged on my rain jacket, because they were wet and cold. I tried to fit them both in, and fought back the tears thinking about their obvious poverty- the kind of poverty you always seem to confront in disaster shelters.  And I wondered as they lined up for lunch- were they not better fed in this shelter than in their day to day life? And is this cold, wet, school worse than their actual home? But you could never tell....Carlos David (munchkin on the right) continued to giggle and nuzzle further into my raincoat, asking me if I was already leaving....and when I would be coming back...

 8. Una Vez y No Mas (once and not more)
This is the name of the improvisational puppet show that our partner organization, Anmutsipical has engineer together. Inside are Salvadorans Juancho (Anmu) and Tito (that heroic kid from El Sauce) who have invented a show about why they have come to the shelter, and how they are going to act there. The show is interactive, as the puppets talk to the audience, asking them how they feel, or the audience shouting advice to the puppets. Creative education (like puppets) is really important to our methodology, and totally magical for kids.                                                    
9. dedicated youth volunteers.  the people who bring life and light into disaster shelters.....
Juancho, working with the children in El Sauce
Daniela, interviewing families about their experience in the shelter
Maggie, faithfully guarding the crayons while the local catholic church hands out clothes.

This is why we do what we do. Thank you and your donations for helping us create smiles amidst the chaos.

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