Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Programa Velasco and the Bajo Lempa - Update

The Sun is shining once again over El Salvador after October’s devastating rains. The land is beginning to dry, and people have returned to their communities to begin the clean-up effort. President Mauricio Funes reported this week that the storm caused about $840 million worth of damages, the most highly affected sector being the agricultural sector at $300 worth of losses (link)

In San Ramon, where Centro Hogar is located, there was extreme risk of landslide. In 1986, an enormous landslide completely demolished the area. There was only one home left standing. This year, however, Civil Protection and the Police were on high alert in the area. Families who lived in unstable homes or in areas of the volcano that were at risk of landslide, according to the experts, were evacuated to San Salvador’s main shelter. Several Programa Velasco families and one teacher from Centro Hogar spent the week in the shelter. Thanks to the generosity of donations from the Salvadoran people, the government, and local and international NGOs, the thousands of people at this shelter were well taken-care of. They ate three meals a day, received donations of clothing, shoes, and hygiene products, and slept on dry mattresses. Two little girls in Programa Velasco glowed when they told me how much fun they had playing with new friends they met at the shelter. Thankfully, San Ramon was for the most part unaffected by the rains, and the people were able to return to their homes safely.

In the Bajo Lempa, the low-lying farming area near the Lempa River, the communities were completely flooded, destroying most crops. Because most people have lived through floods before – something more and more common due to climate change – they have learned how to protect the personal possessions from damage; one teacher from the pre-school in Amando Lopez described how the people hang their mattresses from the roof with heavy rope and place clothes and other possessions up high, out of the water’s reach.

There were heavy floods in the three communities where our partner organization ANADES has pre-schools, Amando Lopez, Presidio Liberado, and La Canoa. Thankfully, the three schools are structurally very sound and did not receive any devastating damage during the rains. One school even served as a shelter for dozens of families as they waited to be rescued by boat. After the waters subsided, the communities got together in a joint clean-up effort to make the schools safe and ready to receive children again!

Thanks to your solidarity and generous donations, ANADES was able to make several trips out to the Bajo Lempa during and after the rains. We brought food, clothing and mattresses to the shelters, and have sent several medical brigades to the communities. The ANADES doctor, natural medicine expert, medical students, and a handful of volunteers have spent three days in various communities doing medical checkups and providing patients with free medicine, when we had what was needed. Many of the children and even many adults were very underweight, some severely malnourished. ANADES was able to give some food to each family that came through, and to the children with the most serious malnourishment, we gave a bag of powdered nutritional supplement.

Now that the rains have subsided, the situation may look like it has gone back to normal, but the loss of the crops in the area means that the majority of families have lost their main source of income for the year. In an already poor region where the people stretch each dollar they earn to provide for their families, the coming weeks, months, and years will be that much more difficult. ANADES and Programa Velasco are seeking to reinvest in the future of these communities – both by supporting immediate needs like food, clean water, medicine, cleaning supplies and hygiene products and long-term needs like reinforcing the levee (which broke during the floods) and the replanting of the crops, so that the people can begin to generate income again. We also believe that education is the most powerful tool of empowerment that can be offered, and we would like to expand our scholarship program next year to the rural communities in the Bajo Lempa and in Morazan, where the economic situation is extremely difficult, now more than ever.

Please join us in support of this work – make a one-time donation to purchase immediate needs like food and medicine; Become a Compañero/a to support long-term projects in San Ramon and in the rural communities, or Sponsor a Child for the 2012 school year. Learn more at Support Us.

In gratitude and hope,

Olivia Amadon
Programa Velasco, In-Country Director

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