Church aid focuses on rebuilding

Published April 1, 2001

A boy in Barrio El Espino, Ahuachapan, El Salvador, helps dig out the ruins of what was once his family’s house, before the January earthquake knocked it to the ground. For now, the family lives in the temporary shelter behind him. ACT partners in El Salvador have provided emergency relief assistance in hundreds of rural villages throughout the ravaged country.

Anglican and other church-based aid groups working in two areas devastated by earthquakes are switching their focus to rebuilding efforts and helping communities develop their own emergency preparedness.

The Primate’s World Relief and Development fund plans to send more money for relief and readiness efforts in both El Salvador and the state of Gujarat in India, where earthquakes earlier this year killed thousands of people.

Bern Jagunos, the PWRDF staff member in charge of Asia and the Pacific, said that PWRDF donations for earthquake victims are still coming in from Anglican parishes and individuals.

By the end of February, PWRDF had provided $15,000 for emergency assistance to El Salvador and $25,000 to India through Action By Churches Together (ACT), a worldwide alliance of churches and related agencies meeting human needs through coordinated emergency response system.

“We haven’t completed our tallies, yet,” said Ms. Jagunos, “but the amount will definitely be going up.”

San Lorenzo parish in Toronto has raised $65,000 and collected needed supplies to send to El Salvador, Ms. Jagunos said. San Lorenzo’s Hispanic congregation held food nights and musical events to help in its fundraising effort.

ACT in El Salvador, which is assisting more than 200,000 people, has issued an appeal for almost $4 million in funding for its reconstruction work in the wake of the January 13 and February 13 quakes.

The earthquake, which measured 6.6 on the Richter Scale, caused more than 250 deaths, left dozens of towns scarred with collapsed buildings, and triggered landslides that rendered many roads impassable.

It occurred about 24 kilometres east of the capital and mainly affected a small, densely populated part of the country.

ACT El Salvador includes the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod, the Episcopal Church of El Salvador, Emmanuel Baptist Church, the Reformed Church, the Salvadoran office of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and the Foundation for Studies on the Application of Rights.

In several communities, with ACT support, local churches have formed rescue brigades, outfitting old vans with first-aid equipment and second-hand rescue hardware, and dedicating their Sunday afternoons to practicing their skills.

When this year’s quakes hit, the brigades were the first rescue group on the scene in several of the communities that were hardest hit.

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, LWF country representative said emergency preparedness at a local level is essential.

“We can’t keep a permanent staff waiting for disasters, so we have to have volunteers, trained people, ready to go on short notice,” Another official said the same participatory spirit would guide ACT El Salvador’s involvement in rebuilding quake-ravaged communities throughout El Salvador.

In India, the ACT’s Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) has received a contribution of 1,000 metric tonnes of food grains and is launching a food for work program. People clear debris, build roads and repair and build community infrastructures, activity which prevents them from migrating away from the area because of scarce food and jobs.

CASA too is including disaster preparedness and planning in its relief efforts. Plans include training interventions at different levels, the group said.

CASA hopes to build 2,000 earthquake-resistant houses for the destitute in three villages of Bhuj Taluk of Kutch district and three villages of Jodiya Taluk in Jamnagar District, using local material, and accommodating climatic conditions of this desert-like area: very hot in the day, very cold at night.

The earthquake has also affected the aquifers and water table. CASA said it would promote sustainable rainwater harvesting and dry land farming measures in the region.

ACT’s appeal for the immediate assistance of the victims of the Gujarat earthquake is $4,223,456 US. So far $2,832,048 US has been collected.


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