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On Sunday 16th April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Ecuador. Tremors were felt out into neighboring Peru and Colombia, and a tsunami warning was issued for five of the surrounding countries. Within an hour of the quake, hundreds were estimated to be dead, and in the weeks since, the confirmed number has risen to over 650. Lancaster student Alice Jackson and fiancé, Lancaster alumni Jose Argudo felt this tragedy personally, as Jose grew up in Ecuador and his family were directly impacted by the quake.
Just days after the quake leveled towns, Alice and Jose began working with a group of architects and other professionals in the coastal region of Ecuador to devise a fundraising strategy to pay for the shelters that desperately need to be built. After launching a Go-Fund-Me campaign, Alice and Jose have taken to twitter, Facebook, and have been in contact with societies across campus in order to spread the word. Alice explained “Half the problem is that no one even knows about it. It wasn’t covered by British media, so before we can even raise money we have to explain what happened. We’ve been volunteering in schools, holding bake sales, anything we can.”
In the days since the page launched, they’ve raised over $5,000. But looking at the damage done to the country, particularly to the rural areas this project is focusing in, there is so much more to do. Jose told SCAN that “Ecuador was already headed into a recession, and the country can’t recover from this quickly. It’s just not prepared to pick itself up quickly”.
With the majority of funding going into search and rescue missions, and large cities, the rural communities destroyed by the quake are being left isolated. Jose explained that “the major roads have been destroyed, so getting people, much less supplies or power out to rural areas has been nearly impossible. To communicate with the people we’re working with we have to wait for them to get back into the capital city each night”.
The project, named “Shelter Jama-Coaque” after the area in which it is being built, is a pilot shelter for the country. Built out of reusable materials, and designed to house up to 200 people while supporting around 2,000, the shelter is the brainchild of architects, economists, and permaculture specialists. The proposed plan is far more than a short term emergency shelter it is designed to have living spaces, as well as kitchen/diner and storage for key resources which will be able to be used for a long period of time.
Alice said that “it will take years for the country to rebuild itself. People have lost their homes, and jobs, they only have what they were holding when then ran out of the collapsing buildings. In the meantime, people need sustainable sources of food and shelter. Children still need school. These shelters are a way to start rebuilding people’s lives.”
The GoFundMe page will continue to be updated as the Jama-Coaque shelter is built, and as plans for more shelters are built. The fundraising page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/project7-8 and Alice and Jose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.