Digna Macias remembers clinging to a door frame in her home in Manta, Ecuador, while the walls fell around her last April following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the Pacific coast of northern Ecuador, where she lives.
Fortunately, neither Macias, nor her daughter, Nidia Palma, who lives with her, were injured badly, but 668 died, more than 4,800 were injured and 80,000 people were displaced in in the country.
“We got hit by bricks that fell on top of us, but thanks to God, it wasn’t too serious,” Macias said. “The house was completely demolished. I felt bad because I didn’t have anywhere to live, but thankfully my daughter and I have been able to stay at my son’s house temporarily.”
MCC partnered with Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Ecuatoriana (IEME) churches in Manabi Province to construct 15 earthquake-resistant homes for their most socio-economically vulnerable church members. Macias was one of the recipients of this assistance.
MCC sent Dave Shenk, a former Mennonite Mission Network worker in Ecuador, as a disaster response coordinator, who said he was shocked when he arrived a week after the earthquake hit: “It was like walking through a war zone in those really affected areas. Buildings were collapsed on top of each other. Police officers and soldiers were patrolling the streets, and other than that it was deserted. The earthquake itself was a horrific experience and very traumatic for people. There were also over 2,000 aftershocks registered.”
“People who don’t have support networks, a savings account and aren’t able to stabilize themselves because they maybe don’t have a job to fall back on, continue to be in really precarious situations,” he said. “We tried to implement better building techniques so that homes are stronger and families would feel safer there.”
Macias and her daughter fit the criteria.
The year before the earthquake, her home was damaged in two floods, according to Shenk. Bearing this in mind, a local civil engineer who attends an IEME congregation planned to build her house up to prevent future damage.
“Thanks to God, I have a new house,” Macias said. “I feel very happy and thankful to all of you.”
To date, IEME has fully completed five homes and is finishing work on three others of the 15 it has committed to rebuilding. Some only require repairs, but many were demolished and need to be fully rebuilt.