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First person Report: Peru in the Aftermath of an Earthquake

Judith Hilbing, OP (Springfield) is missioned in Lima and sends this word about conditions following the August 15th earthquake in southern Peru.

LIMA, PERU September 10, 2007---In the days before the earthquake, Peru stood poised on the brink of a coup.  The teachers’ three month strike had lengthened into breakdowns and protest in every sector of society.  Then on August 15th, the earth rumbled, houses and schools fell, and the earth violently unlocked itself.  Alan Garcia’s government and the whole country of Peru were faced with a huge distraction and a reason to respond together. 

The international generous solidarity toward this tragedy continues to be overwhelming.  However, what stirs the heart has been the internal response.  Here in Peru ordinary individuals, organizations, and churches, including our parish in La Oroya, have collected water, clothes, and food for the victims.

While there are evidences of ineptness, human fraility, and greed, most Peruvians continue to respond with compassion and generosity.  Here are some glimpses of the audacity of gratitude and on-going hope.

 - People spend days sorting clothes and food.
- Ministers and newscastors speak up and demand that responsibility be assumed for the delay and ineffectiveness of the distribution of supplies.
 -Indigenous seniors make monetary contributions.
- Musical groups and artists from Lima arrive in the afflicted area and have people dancing in the streets.
- Prefabricated classrooms and small houses begin to be developed.
- The quake happened around 6:30 p.m. when students were not in classes.
- Two families from the quake area were adopted and resettled in La Oroya.
-The town of Yungay, nearly eliminated in the 1970 earthquake and avalanche, responded in solidarity, knowing first hand the loss, pain, terror, and years of recuperation.
-Parishes and religious congregations in Chincha, Pisco, and Ica continue to operate soup kitchens and distribution centers.

Our Sister Betty Vilca went to Chincha and Pisco in the name of CONFER (Religious Leadership Conference) to check on the religious in the area – Dominicans, Vincentians, Sisters of St. Joseph, etc. She returned with images of people and infrastructures that hopefully she’ll put in a reflection soon.  On Sunday the 15 of us here in Peru will meet to discuss the possibility of our Dominican response. May we continue to pray for a brave nation.

Relief groups urge more aid for Peru quake survivors


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