Plan airlifted aid to the community of Joya Grande in San Salvador
Plan immediately started to organize first response assistance, preparing mattresses, blankets, water, food and hygiene kits that were delivered by helicopter with the help of the Armed Forces as soon as possible. But there was a problem when the aid arrived at Joya Grande: the initial family count was incomplete, and Plan personnel soon discovered that there were 120 families in need at the community, and they had prepared only 50 relief packages.
Rossana Viteri, Country Director of Plan El Salvador, was there to deliver the first kits and reassured the community leaders that Plan would make sure that everybody received the necessary assistance. The people responded well, once they found out that Plan was willing and ready, and acted with respect and patience. "I was impressed by their response", says Ms Viteri. "They all were in a difficult situation, but the people were very respectful and understanding; they knew that we didn't have all the information, but believed us when we promised to return with more aid packages for everyone".
It took 12 helicopter trips to deliver the 120 packages, because of their heaviness. Each package included enough food for a week to 10 days for a family of five and weighed about 40 pounds; a 15-pound hygiene kit with toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers and a bath towel; one mattress and one blanket, and bottled water.
"It was amazing to see how the people took their packages in such an orderly fashion", tells us Ms Viteri. It broke my heart to see that sometimes one person had to carry everything and the packages were really heavy" We really appreciate the help we received from the pilots of the Armed Forces and the support from the police; otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to attend this community and they were in a dire situation".
The municipality acknowledges and appreciates the aid of Plan El Salvador, because it was the first and only organization to help out in such moment of need. But first aid response is just the beginning; Plan has continued to visit Joya Grande to provide health and psychosocial assistance in the shelters, as well as to ascertain that the Protection Policy is being implemented in order to guarantee the safety and comfort of all the children in the community.
Joya Grande lies at the shoreline of an ancient crater lake and its inhabitants used to work as fishermen, farmers or as tourist operators because of the natural beauty of the location. But the huge landslides a week ago almost buried the town and isolated the area completely. The aftermath of this disaster indicates that most of the people will need to move somewhere else, look for another occupation and start their lives from scratch.
Miguel Sánchez and his wife Blanca describe those moments when their house was dragged away by the landslide, but also their determination to start all over again: "We thought that our time had arrived.
The lights went out and the noise was terrifying. But we were able to escape and we are now assessing all the damages we suffered. Now it's clear to us that our community is at a high risk, but we have no other place to go, so we will need to see how we can start to rebuild not only our houses but our lives. We are here now trying to be optimistic for the future, but we also know that the hard times have just begun. We have our hands, our spirits and hopefully many friends to help us overcome this tragedy. And we are sure that we will make it".
And this is where Plan's support is going to make a difference in the lives of the children and the adults of Joya Grande. The emergency relief has arrived, but the livelihood of these families is at risk, and Plan has to be there to help them recover and rebuild their lives in the near future.