Imagine the scene: Waking in panic as the entire house shakes and perhaps starts to crumble before your weary eyes, the shouts and screams of family members and neighbors searching in the darkness for relief as the ground shifts all about you. To you and me the scene is reminiscent of something from a Hollywood movie rather than real life. However, for the people of Caleta Tumbes, a small coastal community in Southern Chile, this was very much a reality as they were awakened in the early hours of Saturday, February 27, 2010, by a devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake.
In the days following the initial earthquake and resulting tsunami, people flocked to the streets as numerous aftershocks continued to pummel the country, severely damaging many of the older and poorly constructed buildings and homes. It was estimated that almost 2 million people were affected by the tragedy. Salvation Army staff and volunteers were quickly mobilized, providing food, water, blankets, first aid kits, candles, and other emergency supplies. Among the many things destroyed by the tsunami were the communities’ fishing fleets. One fisherman described how he and his family fled for their lives to the hills and did not think about their boats. He had just paid for a new boat and had no way to find the money for another. This sad story was repeated by countless people in the region who rely on fishing for their livelihood.
Travel now to Waco, Texas, where Dr. Marcial G. Lewin, originally from Chile, was so touched by the disaster in his homeland that he committed to make a difference in the lives of those who had lost so much. Understanding the long-term economic effects of this disaster, Dr. Lewin decided to focus his efforts on purchasing boats and motors for fisherman who lost everything. In addition to a personal gift, he coordinated efforts among his peers and contacts and raised more than $50,000 for Chile.
Thanks to Dr. Lewin’s efforts The Salvation Army was able to provide a gift of hope to the community of Caleta Tumbes in the form of six boats, four motors, two pair of oars, and a large storage container that will be used to house equipment and supplies. This equipment will enable more than 70 families to sustain themselves. Speaking at a ceremony dedicating the new boats and honoring the fisherman, the secretary of the fishing cooperative said, “We bless God for the witness and work of The Salvation Army and Dr. Lewin. Thankfully, many families will be blessed by this source of income.”
The Salvation Army is at work today in 123 countries around the world and in more than 5,000 communities nationwide. For more information, go to www.salvationarmyusa.org.