A 7.9 Magnitude earthquake struck Peru on August 15 of this year. The earthquake flattened homes, buildings and churches in the coastal areas of Peru from the town of Cañete to south of the town of Ica. The devastation extended along 200 miles of coastline in the regions of Cañete and Ica. In preparing for the KIRF relief trip we learned from international relief postings and media reports that 35,568 houses were destroyed and 503 people had been killed. However, when I landed in Lima 35 days after the earthquake, I found out from the Peruvians that the earthquake disaster had a much higher human cost than reported by the international media. Over 64,000 homes had been completely destroyed or made uninhabitable. Only about 1/4 of the people were made homeless by the earthquake had been given temporary tents to live in by international relief agencies. During my daily excursions from Lima, I saw tent camps set-up in schoolyards, crop fields and in and around the adobe rubble of destroyed villages. Lima is about 2 ½ hour drive north of the town of Cañete in the province of the same name.
During my trip the Peruvians shared their own stories with me and I heard about losses from people who experienced them first hand. Over one hundred people were killed while attending a funeral inside a church in the city of Chincha when the quake had hit. The quake collapsed the church and only a few people survived.During the following days of assessment and relief distribution in the Cañete region, I felt the chill of cold marine air that sets in later in the day in these coastal areas and saw the earthquake survivors make do with wearing layers of shirts and tattered clothing to stay warm. I saw whole villages flattened into piles of adobe rubble from the quake as if they had been bombed in a war. I saw tent communities of row upon row of donated blue tents set up to house the earthquake victims. However, many of the tents had no floors and families had to sleep at night on the ground. These tent communities had communal kitchens, sometimes with only two large pots to cook the meals for 200 or more people at a time.
With the very kind help of the volunteer fire fighters from Lima and Cañete, such as Oscar and Jose, and Paul, the Manager of the San Antonio Abad Hotel in Lima, as well as the gift of the use of a large truck from the Mother Teresa’s Peruvian operation in Lima, KIRF was able to deliver earthquake relief aid to five communities surrounding the town of Cañete. We provided warm blankets, large cooking pots and utensils, electrical and plumbing supplies, plastic for tent flooring, food and warm clothing (donated by Patagonia of Ventura, CA) to the earthquake devasted communities of San Pedro, Las Palmas, Casa Pintada, Walka Las Chinos and Sector Viale Bajo.The people of Peru that we helped as well as all the volunteers in Lima and Cañete were very thankful for the American KIRF aid we were able to distribute. A little bit, went a long way to help many families in five communities recover from the devastating quake.As the relief trip came to a close, I was able to purchase school and art supplies that were delivered to children in the highland village of Huantan. Many of these highland villages have very poor school systems. The children were so happy and drew pictures of their thanks.
Helping Refugees from Burma:
Some of you may remember that I went to the border of Burma and Thailand last May and provided supplies to help the sick and injured Karen refugees and refugee children who had fled the atrocities happening in the Karen State of Burma. These people were given treatment at the Mae Tae Clinic (MTC) in Mae Sot, Thailand. With the recent crackdown by the Burmese military junta against the monks and citizen protesters, the MTC is even more overwhelmed with an increased number of refugees. For more information about the crises and donation information for the clinic, please check out the new Mae Tao Clinic website at www.maetaoclinic.org.
Thank you to all who have helped so much in this effort. And, thank you so very much to all of the people I met in Peru who are doing so much to help others.
Humility, Courage & Peace,
Founder, Kirwin International Relief Foundation