I will sleep soundly at night knowing that soon my family will have a decent house to live in

Published: 20 August 2016 22:30 CET

A few miles away from the town of Pedernales, the small community of Coaque shows the enormous damage caused by the 16 April earthquake that hit coastal Ecuador. The soccer field where children used to play has been turned into a shelter for 100 families who lost their homes after the quake. Coaque has about three thousand inhabitants and all of them were affected by the earthquake one way or another.

There are many heartbreaking stories in this community. Barón Zambrano and his family tell one of them. Barón is a single parent of two children, 10 and 12. His sister, Maria, her husband and their two children had been living with him for several years. They had nowhere to live, and Barón decided to share his home with them. Little did he know that one day he would lose everything.

Barón owns a plot of land in Coaque, the town he had lived in since he was a child. Before 16 April, he and his family had a humble home in this property. He had decided to build another house so that Maria and her family could live comfortably.

But when the earthquake hit, they lost it all. “We were left with nothing but the clothes on our backs. The house collapsed with everything inside. We could rescue some things, some plates and spoons, but the rest was damaged,” says Barón, with tears in his eyes, remembering the day of the disaster.

The Zambrano family did not only experience material losses. During the earthquake, Barón and her little daughter were inside the house. The earth shook so violently that they could not get out and remained trapped under the rubble for several hours. They waited for help, hoping to survive, until they were finally rescued. And even though they are truly thankful to be alive, they are having a hard time recovering from that traumatic experience.

Every time there is an aftershock, children run for a safe place and start crying. They cry for hours. They still don’t know how to control their fear. Barón and his sister are aware that they need psychological support, but they just can't afford it.

Barón works at a shrimp packing factory. He is currently the only member of the family with a permanent job. He is responsible for supporting his family and his sisters’ family. He goes to work at 7 am and comes back home late at night. His sister Maria looks after the children.

After losing it all, the Zambrano family decided to start again from scratch. They removed the rubble and built a temporary shelter using tarpaulins and canes. Barón says that he thought he would live like that for a long time, since it was very difficult for them to recover from the disaster and build a new home.

But one day the Red Cross staff arrived and gave him the news. He and his family had been chosen as beneficiaries of a housing project. “I had resigned myself to waiting many years for rebuilding my home, but thanks to the Ecuadorean Red Cross, I will sleep soundly at night knowing that soon my family will have a decent house to live in,” says Barón.

The Ecuadorean Red Cross is working in cooperation with the Spanish Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to build progressive housing for the families affected by the earthquake. At this first stage, 149 families will benefit from this program. The Zambrano family was the first one to be selected. In a few days they will have a safe home to live in.