Chile: Always in mi corazon (my heart)

Editor's note: On February 27, 2010, an 8.8-magnitude earthquake rocked the southern part of Chile. World Vision activated an emergency response team within hours, and World Vision communicator Heidi Isaza was sent to the disaster zone.

At 30,000 feet in the air, my plane goes through a stretch of moderate turbulence. It's the closest resemblance to an actual earthquake that I have found. The shaking, rocking, and sometimes sudden movements transport me back to Chile, and the days, weeks, and months of aftershocks that followed the massive 8.8-magnitude quake that devastated the southern part of this country a year ago today.

I was eternally impacted by what I saw and experienced as I reported on the emergency relief response in the period immediately after the earthquake. More than anything else, however, I was inspired by the individuals I met: their stories, their strength to overcome, and their wisdom and faith when faced with difficult circumstances.

One of those people is Sandra, a woman from Talcahuano who survived being hit by the tsunami wave. To me, she is the embodiment of the Chilean spirit of survival. When I met her, she was trying to clean her tsunami-destroyed house, even though she knew her family could not live there anymore because it had been knocked off its foundation.

But she couldn’t just sit still and wait for things to happen. She needed to do something — now. Through tears, she told me her story of survival, emphasizing that “you don’t forget these things.” In the year since the earthquake, the smell of rotten fish and dried seaweed may have faded from my memory, but I have not forgotten Sandra.

Constanza cries as she talks about the earthquake. “I dream that this city can be fixed and that I can have a house again. I thank God that we are all alive." (Heidi Isaza/WV/2010)

I also carry with me memories of the children I met in mi corazon (my heart), like 8-year-old Constanza. I was astonished by their ability to find joy after a natural disaster destroyed everything they knew. The room that Constanza's sponsors had helped her build that she and her sister had decorated together had collapsed in the earthquake. As she cried, she told me, “Maybe God allowed this to happen so I can have a better house, a prettier house.”

The last I heard, Constanza and her family were indeed living in “a better house, a prettier house,” provided again through the support of her sponsors and World Vision.

I don’t know why the earthquake happened (other than the scientific explanation of tectonic plates and fault lines). I do know that those who face difficult circumstances, like the Chilean quake survivors, are heroes in their determination to overcome.

Sandra was right — you don’t forget these things or these people. I have not forgotten them. Those in Chile continue to be in my prayers as a long road of recovery and rebuilding awaits ahead of them. But it's a road I know World Vision will continue to walk with them — and I hope you will, too.

World Vision has been working in Chile for more than 30 years, and we will continue to work alongside the people of this country as they rebuild their lives from the quake.

Through World Vision’s relief response in Chile following the February 2010 earthquake:

  • 2,800 families had food and water in the days immediately following the earthquake.
  • 700 families received tents to have somewhere to sleep in the first weeks.
  • 475 families received transitional houses.
  • 14,000 children benefited from psychological support provided through Child Friendly Spaces and supporting activities.

To continue helping those in Chile and other countries around the world affected by earthquakes, donate to World Vision's Earthquake Relief Fund.

Read more on the World Vision Blog about: reflections

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