April 19 2010

Dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake in Chile

19/04/2010 - The need to rediscover their classmates and friends, to see their teachers and, mainly, to feel that they are returning to normality, was something urgently needed by the children in Concepción and surrounding areas after the quake which struck Chile on 27 February.

Photo: SOS Archives
Mother from the community picking up her son from school - Photo: SOS Archives

Just a couple of weeks ago, around 70 percent of the children of Concepcion started their school year. Little by little, they arrived to their schools, feeling both delighted and anxious, because - as they said - the day was "long awaited for".
As reported by several community mothers who are supported by the emergency programmes of SOS Children's Villages in Concepcion, it was not an easy decision for them to send their children back to school. Still trying to cope with the fear of what happened, the fear of the almost daily aftershocks, these courageous women had to be quite brave to allow their children to be away from them for a few hours per day. However, the psychosocial help provided by the psychologists of the different SOS emergency programmes made it possible that the children's families can more and more return to normality to continue with their lives.

"I didn't even want to think of Manuel going back to class..., I wanted to take him out of school... but with the psychologists we discussed a lot about this issue and I understood that it was necessary for us to continue with our lives", said a mother from the SOS Emergency Programme "Pedro del Rio".

The priority for SOS Children's Villages at the beginning was to immediately start with emergency relief actions to support and protect affected children. Five emergency programmes were implemented in different districts, where day-care and psychosocial support has been offered to a total of 770 children. Currently, three of the five projects continue supporting the children and their families.

"It has been a very enriching experience to be an active part in this process of restoration and organisation", said Norma Valdes, director of the SOS Emergency Programmes operating in Concepción and its surroundings.

Photo: SOS Archives
Children from the SOS Children's Village in Concepción back from school - Photo: SOS Archives

Presently, one of the main efforts of SOS Children's Villages Chile is to facilitate the return of children to their schools, educational and vocational centres, kindergartens and nurseries. The facilities without structural damages have to temporarily take over the pupils from other schools and facilities, morning and afternoon lessons are therefore given on an alternating basis until the damaged infrastructure of schools is repaired.

"My school is beautiful and nothing happened to it. My mother was scared all the same, she didn't want to send me to school... I just wanted to see my friends again... Luckily, no one was hurt", told eight-year old Claudio, one of the little participants of the SOS Emergency Programme "Aguita de la Perdiz".

Two months after the earthquake

The emergency programmes of SOS Children's Villages in Chile continue in the most affected areas of Concepción, while the new target of the programmes is now to strengthen the self-sustainability of families and communities. "The emergency activities will evolve into development programmes that are complementary to already existing social programmes from SOS Children's Villages in the country", explained Norma Valdes. "The needs of the children, the resources available, the local context, and the solutions that reflect the local circumstances will help to determine the transition or exit strategy from the programmes installed after the catastrophe."