HOTLINE - week of March 1, 2010

CWS responds to Chile earthquake; CWS continues assistance to quake survivors, both in Haiti and the U.S.; Families in Honduras raise more food and their environmental awareness

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Chile boy amid rubble
Chile--A boy stands amid the rubble of his home after a major earthquake on Feb. 27, 2010.
Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Vera, courtesy

Updated March 2, 2010


A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit central Chile early on Feb. 27, causing damage throughout the South American country. At least 723 people have died, though the death toll is expected to rise.

Needs are greater than the Chilean government initially believed, and they are now appealing for international help in responding to the humanitarian needs caused by the earthquake, as well as the resulting tsunami that wiped out villages along the coastline.  

The destruction of infrastructure, including homes, hospitals and bridges is being called tremendous, with priority needs identified as including water, water filters, generators, shelter, food and personal hygiene items.

CWS will work with local and international partners to help meet these priority needs.  CWS is supporting efforts of local partners as they assess damage and prepare initial relief efforts, and is providing an initial grant of $15,000 to partner the Methodist Church of Chile for emergency needs.

Contributions to support the CWS emergency response efforts may be sent to your denomination or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN, 46515, designated for Chile earthquake response. For updated information, or to make an online donation, visit

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Haitian rooftop water bladder
Haiti—A man working with a local CWS and ACT Alliance partner delivers water via rooftop bladder for residents of a tent encampment in Port-au-Prince.  CWS and the ACT Alliance are working to provide water, shelter materials and other essentials to quake survivors.
Photo: Jonathan Ernst/LWR/ACT Alliance

Thousands of quake survivors depend on Pierrette Joseph Wesner and Saint Philippe Kesly.  Wesner drives a water truck for Viva Rio, a local partner organization of Church World Service and the ACT Alliance.  He and Kesly make up to seven runs a day, filling their tank at a water point that pumps in well water, and then delivering it to camps in Port-au-Prince.

Viva Rio transports approximately 46,800 gallons of water per day, providing clean drinking water to people who were displaced by the January 12 earthquake.

At Kay Nou camp in the Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, one of the city’s most impoverished areas, Wesner and Kesly pump water up into two 2,600-gallon bladder tanks atop an abandoned building at the edge of the camp.

People collect the water from a system of taps connected to the bladder. When they see the Viva Rio truck arriving, they gather at the taps, bringing buckets, bowls and bottles to fill. The Kay Nou camp houses about 1,600 people in tents.

“People need the water so much,” Kesly says. “Sometimes we don’t even get to fill the bladder, people just come and get water right from the truck.”

CWS has also stepped forward to organize support for severely injured Haitians airlifted to U.S. hospitals.   

“The needs in Haiti are great.  The needs of these Haitians coming in are just as great,” says Erol Kekic, CWS Immigration and Refugee Program Director. “Many of the medical evacuees are children.

“CWS’s $1 million-plus response in Haiti, its legal assistance to Haitians in the United States wishing to apply for Temporary Protected Status, and its support for the Haitian medical evacuees are part of “one program of emergency assistance.”

“Faith communities and volunteers are an integral part of the network of support,” Kekic adds.  Several CWS member denominations are reaching out to their congregations, especially Haitian congregations, in the receiving communities to take medical evacuees under their care.

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Some 1,410 families in 11 communities in Santa Barbara Province are participating in a CWS-supported project to combat poverty and food insecurity by improving the crop diversity in their vegetable gardens and sustainably managing their water, soil and forest resources.  

With Santa Barbara’s urban, agricultural and industrial development come environmental problems. For example, trees are being cleared to make room for cattle raising and growing large areas of single crops, causing harmful soil erosion.  

The families are learning how to combat this and other problems and how to work with local governments on environmental issues.

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