Peru earthquake: the people who remain

Published: 28 August 2007 0:00 CET

More than two weeks have passed since southern Peru was struck by tragedy. Now that emergency organizations and many others have left Peru's "ground zero," the news media includes only a few lines each day to remind us of the situation still faced by those who remain - the people affected and the Red Cross volunteers who are helping them.

Those affected have lost everything and live on the street because they either no longer have a house to live in or are afraid that it might collapse. They need all the help they can get to carry on and rebuild their lives in the wake of the earthquake – a fateful word in this part of the world – which destroyed the little they had.

In Pisco, Ica and Cañete and countless other smaller communities, there are other people, alongside the disaster victims, with their shoulder to the wheel. They work day in and day out to help the most vulnerable, who are relegated to this state by the hand of fate or the injustice of this world.

Throughout these weeks, thousands of kilometres away from what some call the developed world, people like Mariela set their personal interests aside and buckle down to give their neighbours a helping hand.

Mariela has been a Peruvian Red Cross volunteer in Ica for two years. When called up, she immediately donned her volunteer’s uniform and joined the team distributing basic necessities among affected communities to meet immediate needs.

Mariela is 26-years-old, slightly built and very dark. She lives in Ica and before the earthquake managed a team of sales representatives in a confectionary company in Pisco. The company’s facilities were destroyed, which means she now has no job and no salary. She is out of work with no benefits until her company is able to resume operations.

However, nothing can wipe the smile from this volunteer’s face. "My Ica is sad at this time," she says while remaining optomistic that, thanks to the great effort that everyone is making and the aid received from millions of people around the world, they will all get through this together.

Today, Mariela has been doing surveys and putting the data onto the computer provided by the head Red Cross office, a task previously done by hand.

Afterwards, she went shopping with the Red Cross delegation from Lima. She knows all the shops and shopkeepers in town, and to ensure that the “foreigners” are not overcharged, she goes in first and settles the prices.

Even now, as the “paraca,” a sand storm that blows up in the afternoons on the Peruvian southern coast, slows down the distribution of aid, nothing dampens her enthusiasm.

There are many Marielas behind the operation, the figures, the trucks, the warehouses, the data. They play the leading role in this emergency. They are the names and faces of the Red Cross mission, a mission that seeks to be closer to those in need and without whom it would be meaningless.