On April 16 at 6:58pm local time, an earthquake registering 7.8 magnitude struck off Ecuador’s central coast at a depth of 19 kilometres, causing widespread damage. The Ecuadorian Red Cross has also mobilized health teams and hospital units, and deployed a National Disaster Response Team to carry out a rapid assessment of the humanitarian needs following the earthquake.

Ecuadorian students in Edinburgh work to help their community overseas

Ecuadorian students at the University of Edinburgh have banded together to raise crisis funds to send back to their country, in the wake of massive earthquakes that shook Ecuador’s northwest coast this week.

The students have joined 19 other UK universities to work with the Ecuadorian Embassy and set up an impromptu charity page called ‘SOS Ecuador’ to help send money back home.  They have £20,000 of their £50,000 goal being raised in the charity’s first 72 hours of existence, according to a press release from the charity.

Over 600 people have died and over 7,000 people have been found injured from the quakes, and numbers continue to rise, according to figures from the Ecuadorian Embassy. “Thousands of people have lost it all,” the embassy wrote in a letter written in support of the charity.

SOS Ecuador was originally set up by Inty Grønneberg, a post graduate student from Imperial College London and others, who quickly reached out to other Ecuadorian students and started chapters at universities across the UK.

Maria Vallejo, a post graduate student studying Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, spoke with The Student about how she got involved with SOS Ecuador.

“My feelings when the earthquakes occurred were of complete helplessness. Everyone I knew was helping somehow, meanwhile, I was sitting in front of my computer refreshing my Facebook feed to try and find out news about the situation,” Vallejo said.

Vallejo explained that she was rapidly looking for ways to get involved with helping her fellow Ecuadorians back home, when Grønneberg got in touch with her. “Immediately, I realised I was not alone,” Vallejo said.

“The work they [Grønneberg and organisers from other universities] had done was amazing: they had met with the ambassador, decided on a fundraising plan, and were getting in touch with Ecuadorian students all across the UK in order to expand the campaign.” she explained. “I was assigned as a representative of the campaign here in Edinburgh.

“The feeling of helplessness rapidly changed into adrenaline, and I realized that the same solidarity I could see in all Ecuadorian citizens around the country, was also taking place amongst us as students abroad.”

Another international student from Edinburgh who has become involved with SOS Ecuador, Carito Araujo, spoke to The Student about the catastrophe the earthquakes have caused in Ecuador, and the jarring effects of the 621 aftershocks which have followed the initial quake.

“The earth has not stopped moving,” Araujo said.

“I was there during the first one on Saturday. No one thought it was that bad because it’s not uncommon for us to have small earthquakes. However, because the epicentre was in a town, all the town had collapsed, trapping people inside buildings,” She explained.

Despite the situation overseas, the students running SOS Ecuador are hopeful for the future, and have expressed how strong the Ecuadorean community has been in the wake of their crisis.

“The reaction of the Ecuadorean people has been amazing, I have never seen so many people helping from every city. People have donating food, water, clothes and medicines, and also a lot of volunteers have gone to help in the affected zones,” Araujo told The Student.

The solidarity felt for those suffering has spread rapidly overseas. Vallejo, as an SOS Ecuador representative, expressed her surprise and gratitude for how the UK communities have risen to help their international members.

“Despite the catastrophe, Ecuadorians are holding strong, thanks to the overwhelming solidarity. Everyone is so willing to help, despite exams, a lack of time, or our tight student budgets; the response has been incredible,” Vallejo told The Student.

“There is a phrase which I think summarises what I, and all Ecuadoreans, have been feeling these past few days. It goes: ‘Algún día les contaré a mis nietos, que nací en un país que se abrazó tan fuerte, que nunca más volvió a temblar.’ This can be translated to: ‘One day I will tell my grandchildren that I was born in a country that hugged so strongly, that it never shook again.’

“I wish to transmit that feeling of solidarity to everyone abroad because I believe it should not be a matter of boundaries or nationalities. Today it is my country which is going through a horrible experience, but tomorrow it may be anywhere else, and I have learned that human beings can be incredibly generous despite not even knowing those whom they are helping,” Vallejo said.

The Edinburgh chapter of the SOS Ecuador campaign has planned many events across campus in the coming days to help raise funds for their charity. According to the Vallejo, there will be a bake sale outside the Holyrood 9D restaurant on Saturday, 30 April. Film screenings, open mic nights and more events announced through the Latin American Society are also being organised.

To donate to SOS Ecuador, go to: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/sos-ecuador/ .

 

Image credit: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

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The Student Newspaper 2016