Life Story: Carlos Julio, Ecuadorian Red Cross volunteer

Published: 18 June 2016 0:43 CET

Carlos Julio, Ecuadorian Red Cross volunteer:  “After the earthquake, the Red Cross filled a void in my life - now I feel the need to help others, just as they helped me.”

This is the story of Carlos Julio Villeo Santana, 46, born in Manabí and living in Quito, Ecuador. Most of his mother’s relatives were living in Pedernales when the earthquake struck.

In Quito, everything was quiet that day until seven at night came around. Suddenly, a horrible noise was heard all over and the ground started to shake.  The earth’s movements were strong enough that you could notice how the ground was cracking. At first, Carlos believed that the epicenter was in the capital itself, but others around him were quickly commenting that it had been worse in other places.

He was worried about his family living out west.  He tried to call them right away, but the working phone lines were overloaded at that very moment; it was impossible to reach them.  Carlos immediately received a call from his brother in the province of Santo Domingo, confirming Carlos’s suspicions - the earthquake had severely affected Pedernales, where his relatives, uncles and cousins lived.  With tears in his eyes, Carlos confessed that it was the saddest phone call of his life.

“I felt my world crumbling, almost as if I was reliving the earthquake,” confessed Carlos.  “That call confirmed that all my relatives living in Pedernales lost their lives.  All of them.  Uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.  Even a very close cousin who was only 23 years old… and her 3 months old newborn baby.”

Carlos’s emotional state was so bad, he had to be assisted by an Ecuadorian Red Cross psychosocial intervention team.   “It was of a great help in that moment,” he says. “The first moments of grief are the key to overcome it step-by-step and then be able to get back to normal” – he added.  Two weeks later, Carlos went to the Pichincha Red Cross branch, where he offered himself to directly collaborate with the victims and affected by the earthquake.

“The Red Cross filled a void in my life and now I feel the need to help others, just as they helped me” states Carlos with tears in his eyes.  Today, the rest of Carlos’s family is living in the Santo Domingo Province. They have left Pedernales while the situation gets better and safety is restored.  Carlos keeps on collaborating selflessly as a volunteer of the Ecuadorian Red Cross, stating with a gentle smile: “I will always be grateful”.