Delegation from AHA Board Visits Chile

The Action for Health in the America's Board of directors visited Chile in March 2011

In March 2011, a delegation of the Action for Health in the Americas (AHA) board of directors spent four days in Santiago and Concepción visiting EPES and seeing the work they are doing.  The delegation was made up of Sheila Dauer (New York) Melanie Nelson (Minnesota) Meghan Ochal (Washington, DC) and Dale Young (Miami), who are four of the 11 US-based members of AHA.

The most important part of our short visit (from March 23 to 27t), was the chance to see firsthand the wonderful work of EPES, especially its earthquake/tsunami recovery work, and to make a soul connection with EPES staff and those they work with.

EPES continues to work tirelessly in Santiago with health monitors. At the same time, it works intensively in Concepción with hundreds of families who lost everything in the tsunami that followed the February 2010 earthquake.  It was thrilling to meet women who have become leaders in rebuilding their communities and livelihoods.  They use EPES’ fundamental philosophy of finding ways to improve the situation through their own knowledge, ideas and efforts. Where they need more information, they are participating in workshops to add techniques and skills to their repertoire of products from the sea. But it was clear to us that full recovery is many years away.

The AHA delegation in Chile

The trip also gave the four of us the opportunity to meet and interact with each other and to spend valuable time with the EPES board and the staffs in Santiago and Concepción.  We forged strong bonds that will help us communicate, collaborate and go forward, both within AHA, and between AHA and EPES

Seeing the work for ourselves and brainstorming together has given us plenty of ideas for how AHA can continue to (and increase) its support for EPES over the next few years.  Our discussions of immediate options for fundraising and exciting ideas for celebrating the 30th anniversary of EPES in Chile and the U.S. in 2012 have energized us for the future! Stay tuned for more details.

A Letter from Lautaro Lopez, EPES Concepcion Director

Lautaro Lopez on the beach near Penco

Dear Friends of EPES, A year after the earthquake and tsunami that changed lives in southern Chile forever, once more I wish to express our gratitude for

your support, prayers and for keeping us company as we walk this difficult road to material and spiritual reconstruction of our communities. We have had twelve months of intense work, supporting families of the Penco coastal zone. We have helped these families improve their emergency housing and we have trained women in the emergency camps on health, first aid, and prevention of respiratory and digestive infections. Families who lost everything also appreciate the extensive psycho-emotional reparation work that EPES conducted with women, adolescents, and children in six municipalities of our region.

This year has witnessed much support for new organizations on issues of such importance as community leadership and mediation born in the wake of the emergency. We have made headway but many obstacles lie ahead. Rebuilding houses has been exceedingly slow, communities are not consulted as to their opinions and interests, natural and political aftershocks continue, while the lack of dignified housing is exacerbated by the lack of steady employment. On February 26, the Citizen Movement for Reconstruction with Justice and Dignity rallied in Concepción – with the participation of more than 400 earthquake victims — to express their indignation. It was heartening to see other communities hold vigils, candlelight services and other commemorative activities in

memory of missing family members, on February 27, the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami. In Chile, the new school year has just begun. Many schools still need repair; children must spend yet another year in emergency housing or with relatives; communities continue to adapt to life without running water in their sharing outdoor bathrooms, and with no definitive date for permanent housing. In the year to come EPES will continue to work with the Penco emergency camps. We will provide support to more than 100 families, winterize their temporary dwellings, support their health and

environmental committees, strengthen leadership and build mediation capacity to improve quality of life. We deeply appreciate your ongoing interest and support which has been essential to helping so many women, children and families begin rebuilding their lives. We couldn´t do it without you! With fond regards and in gratitude, Dr. Lautaro Lopez Director, EPES Concepción Fundación EPES