慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
Love Crosses the Fault Line--After the Mexican Quake

Mexico was struck by three earthquakes over magnitude 6 in September 2017. The one that hit on the 19th with a magnitude of 7.1 near heavily populated Mexico City resulted in the most fatalities and injuries. Three months after the temblor, some disaster areas remain virtually unchanged, with rubble still waiting to be cleared away. The road to recovery will be long and hard.

Tzu Chi volunteers arrived in the disaster areas within a week after that earthquake. They assessed damage and determined how best to help survivors. It wasn’t easy, but with care and a sincere desire to help, they were able to reach and aid people in need.

 

A man hacks away at a damaged structure in Xochimilco, a borough in Mexico City, in preparation for rebuilding. It was mid-December 2017, about three months after the September 19 earthquake, yet rubble and debris could still be seen everywhere in some disaster areas. Tzu Chi kicked off its relief operations in Mexico at the domed structure in the background, a hundred-year-old Roman Catholic church.

The Power of Religion

Father Francisco Efran presides over Mass inside this century-old church in San Gregorio Atlapulco, Xochimilco. A wall of the church was damaged during the September 19 temblor, but other than that the church is still serviceable. Father Efran, a 28-year veteran, offered his church after the quake as a site for charitable organizations to serve quake victims. He called for everyone to help and love each other.

Tzu Chi aid distributions 
and free clinics in Mexico,
 December 7-16, 2017

 

Mexico City

Five distributions and four free clinics in the boroughs of Coyoacan, Xochimilco, and Tláhuac

State of Morelos

Four distributions and four free clinics in Jojutla, Tlaquiltenango, and Zacatepec de Hidalgo.

Totals

Cash cards and blankets (made from recycled PET bottles) were distributed to a total of 10,355 families. The free clinics served 4,491 patient visits.

Major earthquakes in Mexico

Mexico is located in one of the world’s most seismically active regions. On September 19, 1985, an earthquake struck Mexico City and killed 10,000 people. Thirty-two years later to the day, another quake hit with the epicenter just 120 kilometers (76 miles) from Mexico City, killing 370 people and injuring more than 6,000. More than 44,000 structures and 12,700 schools were damaged in the nation’s capital and in states including Morelos, Puebla, Guerrero, and Oaxaca.

This recent quake was sandwiched in the same month by two others: a magnitude 8.1 tremor that struck on September 7 with the epicenter in the Pacific Ocean, south of the state of Chiapas, and a magnitude 6.1 temblor that hit the state of Oaxaca on September 23. The quake on the 19th resulted in the greatest number of fatalities and people injured.

Three Months After the Quake

This woman stands in what was once the living room of her house in Jojutla, a hard-hit area, hanging clothes up to dry. Her house was heavily damaged by the earthquake and is no longer fit for habitation. She and her granddaughter, her legs injured in the quake, now live in a tent.

Jojutla, located in the state of Morelos in southern Mexico, is an important city for commercial activities. Historic sites and commercial districts in the area were heavily damaged in the tremor. Even though it has been three months since the quake, many people are still living in tents.

Footprints of
 Love and Care

On September 25, just six days after the powerful quake, an advance team of Tzu Chi volunteers from Mexico and America arrived in Jojutla to assess damage. Afterwards, visits were made to survivors to establish a distribution roster in preparation for upcoming distributions.

On December 10, 2017, a delegation of 140 Tzu Chi volunteers and medical professionals from 13 countries arrived in Jojutla to distribute aid and provide free medical services. Before they set about their work, local volunteers guided them to look at the quake-damaged city.

Promise Delivered

Mexico is a Catholic country. On December 15, at a distribution venue at a church in San Gregorio Atlapulco, Father Francisco Efran sprinkled holy water to bless Tzu Chi volunteers and others. Although the volunteers were primarily Buddhists, they were completely at ease during the blessing. When the gathered crowd sang the Mexican national anthem, volunteers saluted under a Mexican flag. When Tzu Chi volunteers deliver aid, differences of religion, race, and nationality are of no concern to them.

Stephen Huang (黃思賢, first from right, below), director of Tzu Chi global affairs, told the gathered crowd that he had visited the local area with an advance team as early as September and had worked with Fr. Efran then. “Time and distance did not stop Tzu Chi’s love; we’re back here again,” he said. “We will come back yet again—with more love and care.”

Face to Face
 With Aid Recipients

The first distribution was held on December 7 in Tláhuac, Mexico City. Recipients were admitted by distribution notice. Family size determined the amount on the gift card and the number of blankets for the family.

Armed personnel were on the scene to ensure order and to protect the safety of the recipients and volunteers.

Sincere Care Is the Best Medicine

Argentine volunteer Hong Liang-dai (洪良岱, center, below), came to Mexico on October 12 and left on December 18. For two months, she led home visits to families affected by the earthquake and trained Mexican volunteers.

Guided by locals who had joined Tzu Chi volunteers in conducting home visits, Hong and other volunteers were able to navigate the labyrinth of streets to visit needy families. A mother, pushing a baby carriage with one hand and holding a list of families to visit in the other, was among the local people who helped out. She obviously had her hands full, but she still took the time to help her fellow countrymen by helping the visiting volunteers. Hong was very moved.

She said that sincere care is the best medicine in the disaster areas. When they visited survivors, the latter would sometimes cry on their shoulders. Volunteers did their best to soothe the survivors as they poured out their sadness.

Healing Body
 and Mind

An old woman came to a Tzu Chi free clinic to seek help. Her hand had been fractured but the dressing over the wound had not been changed for some time. Doctors at the clinic treated her. They sang to her while they worked on her to distract her from the pain of the treatment.

Many patients showed up at the free clinic, some for chronic conditions like kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetes, and quite a few others for post-traumatic stress disorder. The latter group complained that they couldn’t eat or sleep, and some told the doctors their fears that they would not be able to rebuild their homes.

Treatments in both Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine were offered at the Tzu Chi clinics in Mexico. There was little direct dialog on the scene because of a lack of a common language, but with body language, lots of TLC, and help from Spanish-speaking volunteers, the medical workers were able to relieve pain all the same.

Thumbs Up

Just before going home from a distribution, an aid recipient gives a thumbs-up to Tzu Chi volunteers.

The distributions in Mexico were made possible with donations and love from people around the world. Volunteers in Taiwan rushed to prepare 12,600 blankets for the distributions this time; the blankets arrived in Mexico in two cargo containers after almost a month on an ocean liner. With the help of Iniciativa Solidaria por la Alimentación A.C., a nonprofit organization, Tzu Chi volunteers quickly cleared the goods through the customs duty-free and had them delivered to a warehouse of Fang Tai-sheng (方台生), a Taiwanese businessman in Mexico. The blankets were repacked before they were delivered to the different distribution venues.

 

 

January 2018