ShelterBox Canada Executive Director in Ecuador

ShelterBox Canada Executive Director, Stephanie, with Adriana Quijije (bottom middle), her mother Anna Quijije (bottom right) and family

Post written by ShelterBox Canada Executive Director, Stephanie Christensen

While on deployment in Ecuador, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Delores Moreira, Adriana Quijije and her mother, Anna Quijije. As we sat together over a cup of coffee, these three women opened up to me about what it was like for them to live through the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador in April 2016, and how their ShelterBox aid has helped them to move on.

The consensus of every person I talked to young or old was that none of them had ever felt or seen something like this earthquake. Adriana told me she thought it was the end of the world. She was cooking dinner, and ran out of gas so she sent one of her children to go get some more. That is when the quake started. Her house collapsed on itself and she was trapped inside.

Adriana

Adriana’s mother, Anna, was living with her sister at the time. She was in her bedroom on the second floor of her house when the quake started. She told me that she tried to get to the door to get downstairs, but the floor was rolling so much all she could do was put her back against the wall and brace herself.

She told me at the time she thought, “Thank god I have made it to 70”, she didn’t think she would live through it.
Anna and her grandchildren

Thankfully all three women and their families were able to get out to the open once the earthquake stopped. They told me that the power went out immediately, and the whole community gathered in the street, fearful of aftershocks and a tsunami. Everyone was crying.

It took four days before they could get word of what happened in other communities, and eight before they had power, and could buy food and water.

Shops did not open right away as owners were afraid of looting. Even once shops opened again and water was available, prices skyrocketed making it inaccessible for many families. On the table where we sat was a large jug of water — Delores told me that normally these jugs cost $1, after the earthquake they were $5 and even more costly in rural areas. The women and their families survived on what food they had already and any water they could find.

Delores

To make matters worse, everyone was sleeping outside because they either did not have a house left, or were afraid to go in case there was another quake. Adriana explained that they lay down plastic bags, and put foam mattresses on them, they then attempted to make bag tents over the beds for some wind protection. Anna added that mice and rats would crawl over them at night, and it was very cold.

All three women and their families received a ShelterKit and training on how to build a shelter with the materials. With the kits, they have all been able to build sturdy shelters. Anna said life is much better now, they can sleep safely and are protected from bugs and rodents. She is so grateful for the help she received.

The recovery process has started, and though it will be a long road, the ShelterBox aid that was provided has helped these women, their families, and their communities begin to rebuild.

I was pleased to see the training provided allowed people to build such exemplary shelters. The tools that come in the ShelterKit will help families build permanent structures when they are able to replace the tarps with bamboo or concrete and roofing sheets.

I have returned home knowing that these wonderful women I had the pleasure of meeting will stay dry and cool during the humid rainy season, and will be safe as their recovery process continues. I am very grateful to all of our donors who have made this possible.