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When Earthquakes Rattle Mexico

News     |    September 29, 2017 by National HQ


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A massive magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook Mexico on September 19, 2017, causing extensive damage in the states of Puebla and Morelos, and in the Greater Mexico City area. Our disaster assessment and the mobilization of aid began immediately. Your donation can bring relief to those affected by recent natural disasters such as this.

Below is a detailed account of our ongoing mission, and we will provide continual updates. Please keep the people affected by this tragic event in your heart, and support Tzu Chi Relief. Together, by joining hands and offering our love, we can relieve suffering and provide aid where it’s desperately needed.


 

Visiting Chinampa Farms in Mexico City’s Xochimilco Borough - November 29 - 30

Due to the damage caused by the earthquake, the livelihood of many chinampa farmers was severely impacted. As we visited the region a week before the start of Tzu Chi’s large-scale disaster relief distributions, some farmers shared their stories.

Don Colás has been farming flowers in San Gregorio for over 30 years, and he’s deeply saddened by the state of his floating gardens in the aftermath of the disaster. But he won’t give up despite the challenges and struggle.

“The earthquake shook the chinampa. The water level went up. Now, the flooding has receded. Everything’s destroyed, can’t you see it?”

Don Colás, Flower Farmer in San Gregorio

During our assessment in the area, Dr. Kao, one of our medical volunteers, provided free acupuncture treatments, bringing relief from various aches and ailments and helping ease some of the hardship people in these communities have been enduring.

“Now that you’ve helped them, my dad can walk a little more and my mother’s pain is gone.”

Alfredo Ortiz, Chinampa Resident

Our upcoming disaster aid distributions will provide much-needed financial relief for the people living here who were impacted by the earthquake.


 

San Gregorio Volunteer Training - November 28, 2017

Volunteer training sessions in preparation for our forthcoming distributions have taken us back to San Gregorio, where reminders of the catastrophic earthquake are ever fresh in the minds of residents. The heartbreak and loss weighs heavily on those impacted, but they’re helping each other in any way they can, and attempting to steer the economy back on its tracks by getting small businesses back up and running.

“I love my town, and we have a nickname for residents of San Gregorio: ‘chicuarote 100%.’ Because my town is fierce. We’re fighters.”

Juan Pérez Osorio, San Gregorio Tzu Chi Volunteer

Finding kindred spirits, residents and volunteers alike were glad to join hands with our mission, and bring relief to their neighbors as one family.


 

Tláhuac Volunteer Training - November 27, 2017

Our volunteers returned to Tláhuac, in the southeast of Mexico City to help prepare local volunteers for our upcoming distribution which will take place on December 7th. Eager to help their neighbors and community, 70 people attended our volunteer training session.

“When they found out we needed volunteers they all showed up today. We really connected, and brought together all the people who want to help.”

Helena Hung, Tzu Chi Volunteer

The borough of Tláhuac was severely impacted by the Mexico earthquake, and many residents desperately need help. Our upcoming disaster relief distribution will provide the first disaster aid in the area, and people are grateful and eager to participate.

“You come from the other side of the world. So, I also have that moral commitment with you. I wanted to come”

Trinidad Jardines, San Gregorio Tzu Chi volunteer


Day of the Dead

 

The completion of the list of people who incurred damages due to the earthquake was the main priority on our third visit to Jojutla. We also brought tools to help clear debris, as the remains of crumbled buildings still must be cleared away before any true progress can be made.

We are grateful for the involvement of our local volunteers on this day especially, as residents were honoring those who died during the earthquake, yet were dedicated to our mission.

“You come from the other side of the world. So, I also have that moral commitment with you. I wanted to come”

Trinidad Jardines, San Gregorio Tzu Chi volunteer

Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), is celebrated from October 31st - November 2nd, remembering all those who have passed. The day is also means of providing support on their spiritual journey of the deceased, so that they may “transcend to another life,” as described by one local volunteer who created an alter for his beloved grandfather.


Santa Cruz and Xochitepec - November 1, 2017

 

Ever since the earthquake, many Xochimilco residents are homeless, or, like Martina, continue to live in damaged homes that could collapse all too easily.

“I don’t sleep. I wake up every minute because I think it’s all going to fall… But what do I do? Where do I stay?”

Martina Palma, Santa Cruz resident

Families  with children, people with chronic illnesses, seniors, and people with disabilities, are all beset by this very question: ‘What do I do? Where do I stay?’

“I am a widow. I don’t have a pension… I have a daughter who is disabled. I lost my home. I lost everything.”

Amalia Mendoza, Xochitepec resident

With winter approaching, many, like Amalia, are at a loss for what to do, as the tents do not provide nearly enough warmth, especially for those already in a vulnerable situation. Amalia fears for her daughter's safety, a sentiment echoed by many at the camp who similarly have no clarity for their future, nor for their family members:

“Winter is coming and [the tent] is cold. I don't know if I’ll live 5 or 10 more years to be able to leave a room for my daughter - a roof for my daughter.”

Amalia Mendoza, Xochitepec resident

Tzu Chi Relief volunteers are working with haste to make disaster aid available, and to offer crucial aid to those sometimes left behind - our relief distributions are forthcoming.

Tzu Chi volunteers also offered payment to locals through our Cash-For-Relief program, helping impacted residents get back on their feet while empowering them as they clean up their community. One local volunteer, Jamie, refused to accept it – volunteering with our disaster assessment team is something he’s doing from the heart.

“I learned something very important: love… The love that they came to share with us. That we are not alone, that there is always someone close who loves and cares for us. It’s at this point in my life that I’ve learned to value my time, which is a new reason to live on.”

Jaime Pérez, San Gregorio Tzu Chi volunteer

Some volunteers, like Azarel and Luis, even went so far as to spend all of their savings to be able to lend their hands in aid.

“To me, it means more to go help somebody than to buy something material, or to use it for material things that are gonna be used up and gone with maybe no memories or no meaning, no value.”

Luis Ruiz, Jojutla Tzu Chi volunteer


Returning to Jojutla - October 29, 2017

One month has now passed since our relief volunteers’ last visit to Jojutla, and although much has changed as many buildings have been demolished, the people are struggling tremendously. Many more buildings still must be torn down.

Residents still live among the piles of rubble in tents, and children make the most of the situation playing on broken furniture strewn on the sidewalk.

Because there is a fear of theft, some residents have refused to abandon their damaged homes to keep watch outside, day and night:  

“His family is worried that if he leaves, the land and the house will be taken by someone else… Things will be stolen, so, he stays here.”

Stephen Huang, Executive Director of Global Tzu Chi Volunteers

A 400 year old Catholic Church collapsed, a devastating prospect for the devout who can no longer seek refuge in their spiritual home in this time of immense need.

The path to recovery will be lengthy and hard, but our upcoming disaster aid distributions will help people rebuild their homes.


 

One Local Volunteer is Helping Us Move Mountains

When Trinidad Jardines, a community leader in Xochimilco, got to know Tzu Chi’s international disaster relief team, she recognized something that touched her heart, and she felt inspired to join our efforts to help her people.

“I saw that deep inside, love moves you and love can move mountains, and I know that we can achieve it together.”

Trinidad Jardines, Xochimilco Tzu Chi volunteer

Trinidad works with the Public Works Department in San Gregorio, and her expertise and faith in us paved the way for the community to trust us as well, which is essential as we strive to connect with everyone who needs aid after the earthquake.

“My neighbors know that they have to trust in us and join this mission so that we can help them.”

Trinidad Jardines, Xochimilco Tzu Chi volunteer

Our international volunteers acknowledge that this mission is difficult.

“This disaster has been very devastating. It’s a very large disaster zone which we’re completely unfamiliar with.”

Stephen Huang, Executive Director of Global Tzu Chi Volunteers

The logistics of creating a comprehensive and accurate list of people that need disaster aid are complex and involve obtaining a lot of personal information. Sometimes people won’t trust an outsider, so the involvement of community leaders like Trindad is vital. In addition to home visits, we opened a desk to let people come to register for help.


 

Volunteers Are the Heart of this Mission

Conducting a mission of this scale demands the concerted effort of many volunteers. Our team already comprises Tzu Chi volunteers from the United States, Taiwan, Argentina, Ecuador, but more assistance is necessary to bring distributions here as quickly as possible, because people are suffering. We have been actively recruiting local help, handing out flyers, and even using other means:

“We went out in the car, in the back of the truck and with a loud speaker, we were inviting people in the area to come and join us because we really need more volunteers.
We really need people to help us help!”

Jenyffer Ruiz, Tzu Chi Volunteer from Ecuador

These efforts are paying off, as local residents are coming forward to join hands with us in helping their communities, some feeling a sense of responsibility.

“I see it as a debt that I have to pay for my people, but also, because you come from all over to help us and you need extra hands, so that all of this can be more organized.”

Victor González, San Gregorio Volunteer

Each recruit has their own reasons for volunteering. For Ernestina, who’s thankful to God for being alive, her family unscathed, her house intact, seeing how everyone was not as lucky creates the urge to help her community. And, she’s eager to inspire others to help as well:

“You can see that these people need a lot of help in addition to consolation. Truly, if you can do something for them, please do.”

Ernestina Espinal, San Gregorio Volunteer

Brenda Narciso is another volunteer, and her story will melt your heart. Having lost everything that she’s worked her whole life to accomplish for herself and her family, she’s focused on helping others.

“If God gave me the opportunity to live, it was for a reason. And that reason is to help all of my town.”

Brenda Narciso,San Gregorio Volunteer

With her young daughter in tow, Brenda is grateful to help her community and Tzu Chi’s international team:


“I feel really proud of being able to help you, and I won’t let you down.”

Brenda Narciso, San Gregorio Volunteer

 

Home Visits in Tláhuac Continue - October 2017

One month after the earthquake, the situation in the Federation of Tláhuac remains precarious, as many residents are still homeless and can’t return to their structurally unstable apartments or houses which stand on cracked ground.

“Somebody gave us a tent but it is too cold.”

Nely Nava Leyva, Miguel Hidalgo Resident

Coping with the uncertainty of what lies ahead, whether their homes will be demolished or not, is hard to bear. But many find relief when we visit and learn about their situation, helping to shoulder that stress.

“Even though we cry, it gives us joy. It makes us tear up seeing people supporting us,
and trying to make us happy.”

Nely Nava Leyva, Miguel Hidalgo Resident

For one elderly lady we met, the damage to her home is just the tip of her pain, since her husband recently passed away and she is mourning and consumed by sorrow. Our volunteers were grateful that they could be there to console her at this tremendously challenging time in her life. While we are bringing the promise of financial aid to help people rebuild after the earthquake, offering moral support is equally important.

“We’re not only providing aid, but also providing love to help rebuild their inner peace.”

Helena Hung, Tzu Chi Volunteer

This manner of conducting a disaster assessment is deeply moving for our volunteers as well, as they connect heart to heart with the families they meet.

“From all the disaster relief assessments I’ve participated in across Central and South America so far, this is the most impactful because we meet the people personally visiting homes one by one.”

Helena Hung, Tzu Chi Volunteer

As our volunteers and local residents came together, cultural and language differences fall away, replaced by universal fellowship based on love.

Each family has its unique hardships, and miracles. In one household, a disabled son’s request that his mom move him to the patio saved their lives as the earthquake crushed his room seconds later. We are grateful that soon, we will offer families such as this the financial aid they need to rebuild after the earthquake.


 

Discovering the Resilience of Residents in San Gregorio - October 2017

As our disaster assessment continues in San Gregorio, our volunteers are meeting many remarkable individuals who are standing strong even though so much around them collapsed due to the earthquake.

In the “Conchita” neighborhood, an underprivileged neighborhood where many residents are hard-working farmers, we met Laura Enriquez Olvera, a single mother whose house was destroyed.

“It’s sad because you’re left with nothing, no place to live, no place to stay.”

Laura Enriquez Olvera, Conchita Resident

Many people struggle to survive here, and some, like Laura, must work in other towns and commute daily. The memory of what happened on September 19 still haunts her.

“I was at work when the earthquake hit. I immediately got too scared. And the only thing that came to my mind were my children who were here, while I was so far away.”

Laura Enriquez Olvera, Conchita Resident

Thankfully, her children survived and were unharmed, and Laura is determined to rebuild their humble home. There’s no denying that it will be tough for a single provider who must balance work with efforts to recover from the catastrophe. Our upcoming distributions will be a tremendous help to this resilient mother.

Flora Garcia Galicia, another woman we met in San Gregario, is traumatized by memories of the earthquake, and in her case, she was there to witness horrors.

“I saw a gas tank explode and a five-story house burn completely, and children running out with burns, and a young man came out on fire, screaming and rolling on the ground.”

Flora Garcia Galicia, Local Tzu Chi Volunteer

For a time, she was afraid to set foot outside her home and walk in the street.

“What if this falls down? What if there’s an earthquake … and that fear took over my body.”

Flora Garcia Galicia, Local Tzu Chi Volunteer

Then, at the urging of a psychologist, she began talking to her neighbors and discovered that she’s not alone in her trauma. And now, she’s found a new purpose by joining our team of volunteers, and she glad to be helping her neighbors, the process healing.

“It makes me happy to be helping my town. First things come first so we need to help our neighbors.”

Flora Garcia Galicia, Local Tzu Chi Volunteer

Next, our disaster assessment team will revisit Tláhuac, a borough of Mexico City.


 

Volunteer Training in San Gregorio - October 21, 2017

Today, we welcomed 45 new local volunteers at our training session in San Gregorio. Residents eagerly joined hands with Tzu Chi relief volunteers, hoping to lift their neighborhoods from the debris, and rekindling a sense of positivity that they can make a difference for their community.  

“Every day when I leave in the afternoon, I’m full of hope.”

Jose Lechuga, Local Tzu Chi Volunteer

When the earthquake first hit, it had utterly shaken residents of San Gregorio to the core, and shortly after, many questioned how they would ever regain their footing amid the destruction.

“It makes me happy to be helping my town. First things come first so we need to help our neighbors.”

Flora Garcia Galicia, Local Tzu Chi Volunteer

Next, our disaster assessment team will revisit Tláhuac, a borough of Mexico City.

Now, local volunteers have united hand-in-hand with Tzu Chi relief to begin aiding in the process of assessment, and gathering crucial information for the upcoming distributions.


 

Assessment in Tláhuac

Our disaster assessment in the Mexico City borough of Xochimilco continues. There’s something magical about this borough, one of 16 within the city, where several areas were declared World Heritage Sites by the UN in 1987.

“I saw how the walls in homes cracked and the earth opened. I felt that this was the end.”

Roberto German, Tláhuac resident

Many families lost everything they had, representing years of effort and treasured memories.

“I had to be strong because my children were there. But later, it hit me… I thought about my parents’ efforts over so many years, of so many years of memories for all of us…”

Giovanna Lopez, Tláhuac resident

Relief volunteers on-site estimate there to be approximately 1,300 families that suffered from the earthquake in Tlahuac alone, with another 3,000 families that we still need more information on regarding their situation after the earthquake. With more local volunteers joining in, we can more quickly and effectively survey the devastated areas and determine the best course of action.


 

Disaster Assessment in the Land of Flowers

Our disaster assessment in the Mexico City borough of Xochimilco continues. There’s something magical about this borough, one of 16 within the city, where several areas were declared World Heritage Sites by the UN in 1987.

Xochimilco can be translated as “breeding ground of flowers,” and the blossoms and produce that are grown here on artificial islands called “chinampas” are recognized worldwide. Yet since the earthquake, business is not the same due to damages and their impact on the region’s infrastructure.

“Sales have been very slow because the water pipes were damaged.”

Carmen Medina, Vegetables Street Vendor

“We are currently under water rationing.”

Edgar Altamirano, Flower Shop Owner

For those growing flowers and vegetables, such issues can be devastating. We intend to help these business owners with our upcoming distributions of financial aid.


 

One Month After the Earthquake – October 19, 2017

As we prepare our financial aid distributions for those impacted by the earthquake, our disaster assessment team in Mexico has been travelling to hard-hit communities, offering emotional support while compiling lists of people in need of help.

The town of San Gregorio in the borough of Xochimilco was severely affected, and we reached out to the community seeking local volunteers to assist us in the disaster assessment process.

“We’ve assessed the most devastated areas of San Gregorio, and estimate that 2,800 - 3,000 affected families will receive aid at the distribution. The journey ahead will be long. We require more volunteers to join in and provide assistance.”

Tim Lu, Tzu Chi Volunteer

For the three-person team entrusted with this mission, it’s been a challenge – especially since they take their efforts deeply to heart:

“Actually, I’m very scared. I must achieve the things that I promised.”

Joyce Ho, Tzu Chi Volunteer

“I won’t think about the number of days only about how we’ll make a difference one day at a time.”

Tim Lu, Tzu Chi Volunteer

“When the assessment is completed, there will be data from thousands of families …”

Yihan Bao, Tzu Chi Volunteer

One day, one new volunteer, one family seeking aid at a time … that’s how this international mission evolves.


 

Bringing Local Volunteers on Board - October 9, 2017

In order to expand the reach of our disaster assessment and speed up the process, Tzu Chi Relief volunteers are currently conducting local volunteer training sessions in Mexico as well.

After their training is completed, the new volunteers break off into small groups and go from house to house to inspect the condition of the premises, meet residents, and learn of their situation.

In this manner, we are able to more quickly and even more thoroughly prepare lists of families in need in each city, who will then be invited to our upcoming disaster relief distributions which are to begin in November.

During the disaster assessment, our volunteers have also been meeting with local officials and looking at churches and schools which might serve as possible sites for our distributions. We will provide more updates soon.


 

From City to City, House by House - October 5, 2017

After Jojutla and San Gregorio, Tzu Chi Relief volunteers continued their disaster assessment in four other cities that were heavily impacted by the earthquake – Atencingo, Cuautla, Raboso, and Xochimilco.

In each city, our volunteers are conducting door to door home visits to meet families and learn about their current situation and most pressing needs, while offering moral support and attentive care.

In Xochimilco, some residents impacted by the earthquake are still without clean running water, and the debris of crumbling buildings remains.

They heard the story of three sisters who live on the same premises. Not only are they struggling without water, but because of a property issue, obtaining government aid may prove difficult.

Each family faces its own issues, yet the bottom line is the same – they are struggling since the earthquake, and need support along the long and difficult road to recovery after this catastrophic event.


 

Disaster Assessment in San Gregorio Atlapulco – September 26-27, 2017

On the second day of our disaster assessment, the team travelled to San Gregorio Atlapulco, a city in the borough of Xochimilco, about an hour’s drive from Mexico City.

As our volunteers walked through town to survey the damage and meet residents, they also coordinated with members of the military, municipal government, and civil organizations to help us determine the most urgent needs, and to request lists of residents affected by this catastrophe.

It soon became evident that medical outreach may be of potential need in San Gregorio, apart from financial aid and disaster relief supplies.

Vehicles equipped for medical care were deployed by local government and are on the scene, and doctors are working day and night to provide emergency services to those who require it. However, medical supplies may become in short supply and due to a lack of electricity and clean drinking water, there are some serious public health concerns.

“There is no water. There is no way to wash their hands. The food they are bringing from the outside lacks refrigeration. It is important now to help especially with medical care.”

Jose Ricardo Licona, General Medicine Doctor

It is estimated that around 600 families in San Gregorio were affected by the earthquake, and each has their own burden of hardship to bear. Some, like Iván Bárcenas whose house collapsed in seconds, are now sleeping in the street, and the trauma of September 19 is still a wound that hasn’t begun to heal.

“I was on the second floor and my two children were in their room watching TV. I felt a crunch and ran to their room. We ran downstairs as I hugged them covering ourselves and waited for the worst. The walls began to crumble. Falling and falling to rubble …”

Iván Bárcenas, San Gregorio Resident

Day two of the assessment in San Gregorio was even more heartbreaking, as our volunteers came upon the San Gregorio Church, which has a history spanning 700 years, and discovered that one side of the church collapsed during the tremors and crushed a couple and their child. Tragically, the mother died alongside her daughter, but the father survived, then had a leg amputated.

For so many people impacted by the earthquake, the future is uncertain and the present is beset with suffering and critical needs.

“We need food. If you can help us with blankets, mats, any kind of help is welcome.”

Iván Bárcenas, San Gregorio Resident

We are planning how to best serve this town, as the disaster assessment mission continues.


Disaster Assessment in Jojutla – September 25, 2017

Our disaster assessment began in Jojutla, an old city dating back to 1840, near the epicenter of the earthquake on September 19, 2017.

Around 500 families here lost everything, as some 300 buildings collapsed and many others will be destroyed due to severe damage.

“Buildings here are very vulnerable to earthquake damage so they collapsed easily.”

Stephen Huang, Tzu Chi Volunteer

For some residents, the distress of losing their home is compounded by the severe - and in some cases permanent - injuries family members sustained during the earthquake.

“My property … collapsed and fell on my relatives ... My niece has a fractured spine my nephew, they amputated an arm.”

José Alberto Galván, Jojutla Resident

The situation is dire for many families here. All the schools in town were damaged and are closed, there’s no work or source of income anymore, and residents must figure out how to obtain food each day.

“We need all the basic necessities, oil, rice, beans. The children have nothing, no milk, diapers.”

Azareel Pulido, Jojutla Volunteer

People are supporting each other in any way they can, and strangers are even coming in from other towns to distribute food. It appears that providing rice and other non-perishable food will be a priority here.


Your generosity could mean the world to someone who must now rebuild their life from scratch after this disaster. Help support our relief mission.

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