Tzu Chi’s Cash For Relief program in Ecuador began on May 6th, and more than a 1,000 people showed up, eager to clean up their cities and earn money to feed their families.
The program was launched simultaneously in Manta and Portoviejo, two coastal cities in the province of Manabi, the area hardest-hit by the earthquake that struck on April 16th. The goal of the program is to provide much needed job opportunities, while cleaning the cities up in the shortest possible time.
The program began at 9 AM in Portoviejo, the capital of Manabi Province, where 121 residents were enrolled and accepted on the first day. Many commercial areas in Portoviejo were completely destroyed by the earthquake and for security reasons, these hard hit areas are now controlled by military personnel. And so the city government arranged that program participants would clean streets near where main buildings had collapsed, and everyone worked until 1 PM, manually clearing debris.
Each participant then received $15, and the Cash For Relief team immediately drove to Manta to launch the program there on the same day as well.
When the team arrived in Manta, 1,055 people who wanted to participate in the program had gathered, and the mayor was there to welcome them.
Over the course of the afternoon, program participants worked together to collect debris by hand and place it where government cleaning troops would be able to easily remove it from the side of the road.
And then as in Portoviejo, all participants in Manta were paid $15 for their work. For most people in both cities, it meant finally being able to bring food “home” to the family – even though home is now the street for thousands since their houses or apartments were destroyed.
On the first day of operation, the Cash For Relief program distributed $17,640 US.
On the second day of operation, people in Portoviejo began to line up from 4 AM in the hope of being accepted into the program. Although 500 had registered earlier, nearly 200 more showed up and no one was turned away. By the end of the work day, 688 residents received $15 each.
In Manta, 1,080 people participated on the second day of the program, and between the two cities, $26,520 US was distributed, bringing financial relief to thousands of families.
The people of Ecuador have faced difficult moments in the past, and they are ready for the grand effort that lies ahead. Seeing help come from so far away, from Tzu Chi, an organization originating in Taiwan, they are strengthened in their resolve to help their communities, and their country. They know they are not alone, and when people unite, magic happens and anything is possible.
As for Tzu Chi, we aim to remain until the streets of Portoviejo and Manta are clean of rubble and normal life is on its way to being restored.
The Cash For Relief program began on May 6th, and is now employing more and more people per day. With the streets being cleared of debris, and residents working together to earn money to buy basic necessities for their families, a sense of renewal and hope is returning. Your help will make sure the program runs as long as needed, and as many people as possible can join in.