Ecuador Earthquake Response: IDHA Alumni Working Together in the Field

From IIHA Blog by Katarzyna Laskowski

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Guayaquil, Ecuador (Wilson Gomez Vascones) – On Saturday April 16th at 6:58 PM, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador; many local efforts started immediately, and in the days to follow, many governments and international organizations began arriving with different types of assistance. The organization that I coordinate here in Guayaquil, Red de Voluntariado Juvenil (“Youth Volunteering Network”), started planning how to best assist with food, shelter management, and also medical assistance in the sectors.

Within the first few days of the Earthquake response, Rahul Singh, Executive Director of GlobalMedic and the International Rapid Response Team from Canada, contacted me to offer support and assistance right away. Rahul and I had met during the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA)Training Course in June 2013, and have since collaborated on building local capacity here in Ecuador. Rahul and I agreed that his team would arrive by Monday night while I worked on securing the necessary permission to operate on ground zero.

The experience that Rahul brought with him – experience gained through his assistance and support of various agencies in disasters and humanitarian emergencies – was invaluable. We visited every coordination table to assist with different relief operations and in addition to experience and knowledge, GlobalMedic assisted Ecuador in its Earthquake relief efforts by providing: the R4 incorporated finders team who, in coordination of Durán Fire Department, worked the whole week on Search and Rescue tasks confirming there were no longer victims under the rubble; AR10 units that produce 2400 liters/hour of potable water, AR3 units which are several trekkers that purify water by 240 liters/hour, and1,000 buckets of fresh rain that produce 3 liters/hour and work best for families; and several thousands of aquatabs.  GlobalMedic also provided a specialty group of drone pilots that flew over the affected areas mapping the areas and allowing for real time information and data to ensure the best resources for decision makers. This effort was done in coordination with the Secretariat of Disaster Risk Reduction (SGR) who requested the areas be mapped, and with the Ecuadorian Air Force that cleared the requested areas so the drones could fly without risks.

The Red de Voluntariado Juvenil continued the programs that were running while providing essential logistics and coordination support to GlobalMedic. Now we have around 300 volunteers in the affected areas obtaining information for the next part of the interventions which will be to build houses with partner organizations such as Techo and Hogar de Cristo. The partner organizations also invited Fronteras, a Jesuit spirituality community that looks to serve the people in need where needed the most, to share their knowledge on accompaniment in order to serve better.

It has being a great experience to work together with Rahul as IDHA alumni, and all the knowledge gained and shared during the IDHA back in 2013 has assisted us greatly in our work. We look forward to more opportunities to collaborate and we continue to build more great relationships with every course we take through the IIHA.

Wilson Gomez Vascones is Coordinator of the youth volunteering network, Red de Voluntariado Juvenil, based in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He is also part of the volunteers at Guayaquil fire department (which has been run by volunteers for 181 years). He is a graduate of IDHA 40.