Greetings from Canoa, Ecuador! I have just passed the one month mark of earthquake relief down here with All Hands Volunteers. As I left New York one month ago, I was filled with many emotions. Excitement, anxiety, wonderment. I had no idea what I was really about to embark upon, but somehow, deep inside, I knew I had to come help and I knew no matter what, it would be epic.
In the month I have been here “on Project,” I survived two large earthquakes. The night I arrived, we were shaken awake by a huge 6.7 quake at 3am. “Welcome to Project,” everyone said. People were very sweet and comforting, but I was still scared. It was quite a reality check. I said to myself on the journey here, “at least we’ll be safe if a quake hits. We are living in tents.” And boy, did that ring true my very first night. Another quake, a 6.8, hit 9 hours later while we were out working on building tents at a temporary camp for earthquake survivors.
Within 24 hours, I was in the thick of it, and scared. But, all was ok. A few more buildings came down in Canoa, the town we are living in that was rocked by the huge quake on April 16 and lost 50 residents and about 75% of its buildings.
In one month, I have helped build tents at the camp and put my construction skills to the test by helping to build a temporary bamboo home for a displaced family.
Let me just say that bamboo is very different than working with straight, square lumber. I am amazed with how strong and versatile it is. I’ve also been working on the demo team, helping to carefully pull down and deconstruct buildings damaged by the quakes. I’ve even been working as a team leader leading teams in demo & rubble. We pulled down a large brick & concrete school building last week, and I led the team in rubble (think shovels and sledgehammers & many trips with wheelbarrows).
The work this team is doing here is incredibly hard, physical, and is all done in the hot equatorial Ecuador sun. But, everyday, the team gets out there with smiles and gives it their all.
I have learned so much on this project. I have met incredible people from around the globe that I met as strangers but who’ve now become lifelong friends. Family. This is an incredible thing we get to do. To be a part of a team so giving, so smart, so hardworking. It inspires me more every minute.
I’ve just spent 4 days here in Canoa on a mandatory break. The staff want people to get a few days off from project to relax and recharge. I decided to stay local because I’m already on a beautiful beach. I figured why travel a day each way on a bus when I am living in quite a special spot right here? I’ve realized just how much this town needs us. How much good we are doing. And what an incredible opportunity we all have here to help.
I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow!