Ecuador Se Levanta Screens in NYC

National Headquarters  |  July 27, 2016

Our documentary Ecuador Se Levanta presents Tzu Chi’s disaster relief mission in Ecuador following the brutal earthquake that destroyed many towns in Manabi Province in April, 2016. The film shows how Tzu Chi’s Cash-For-Relief program offered desperately needed aid while creating thousands of jobs, and lets the audience witness the resilience of Ecuadorians as they unite to clean up their ravaged hometowns and regain their faith in life.

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U.S. & Ecuador

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This heartwarming documentary premiered in New York City on June 28, at a special community gathering in Queens, organized in conjunction with our online #Plank4Ecuador fundraising campaign. The event was attended by New York Supreme Court Justice Carmen Velasquez, who is Ecuadorian-American; Susana Cortázar Lascano, Consul of Ecuador in Queens; Martha Zambrano, representing the Ecuadorian International Center; Jorge Roldan, Recording Secretary of labor union Local 78; and other prominent Ecuadorian community leaders.

After the screening, several of our distinguished guests were invited to speak, and some expressed their amazement, at times humorous, at how the program brought earthquake survivors together in a truly exceptional way.

I think all of us here who know our people are basically shocked to see men with brooms sweeping the streets! It’s wonderful to see the community working together. The fact that [Tzu Chi] made this happen makes us so proud.

Many were not aware of the extent and powerful effect of Tzu Chi’s aid in Ecuador prior the screening.

I am speechless. My heart is touched by this documentary. I want to say ‘Thank You, Tzu Chi Foundation’, not only for the money you gave to people, but that you made them happy, and [offered an opportunity to] work with passion. I know you’re not Ecuadorian, and as counsel I can’t give you citizenship. But from the bottom of my heart: ‘You are Ecuadorian’!

Tzu Chi Foundation has shown us the meaning of compassion, by bringing happiness, love, solidarity, power and strength to lift [the spirit of people] in towns that have suffered or are still suffering after the earthquake. Thanks to the brooms, thanks to the hearts of these people, Ecuador is getting back on its feet.

Some speakers even volunteered to plank for Ecuador to show their support for Tzu Chi’s fundraising campaign on behalf of their country.

Tzu Chi volunteers who were part of the disaster relief mission, including Martin Kuo, Deputy Director of International Affairs, and George Chang, the Executive Director of Tzu Chi USA’s Northern Region, also shared their experience and some stories from the relief mission, emphasizing how much the people of Ecuador had touched their hearts, creating a loving bond that can’t be broken.

The program included a lively broom dance by volunteers, followed by the singing of Tzu Chi’s signature song, “One Family”, to conclude the event. As everyone followed the lead of Tzu Chi volunteers and performed the lyrics to the song in sign language, a palpable feeling of solidarity filled the room, and lasted for the rest of the evening as people continued to discuss, strengthening the connections between Tzu Chi and the Ecuadorian community in NYC that were formed that night.

On July 22, Tzu Chi USA hosted an encore screening of Ecuador Se Levanta in New York, this time at the Consulate of Ecuador in Manhattan.

Martin Kuo, Deputy Director of International Affairs, had come from Los Angeles to attend this screening as well. He spoke about how every time he sees the film, his heart is moved yet again, then told everyone that while he has served as a volunteer in 18 countries, Ecuador is among his most honorable and memorable missions: Although it was heart-breaking, it was “an honor to be there at a time when most needed”.  

Once again, after the conclusion of the film, there was time for sharing by both invited speakers and Tzu Chi volunteers.

Martin also voiced his admiration for how the people that had been affected by the earthquake in Ecuador, still managed to donate $2,342 to help Tzu Chi aid others in their time of need: Their spirit truly exemplifying the principles of the Bamboo Bank, where every cent counts, because it’s an expression of love.

Linda Machuca Moscoso, the Consul General then gave a Certificate of Appreciation to Tzu Chi Foundation from the Consulate General of Ecuador in New York, reading the words on the award for all to hear:

For your generous response and solidarity towards our people who suffered the terrible devastation produced by the earthquake of April 16th, 2016.

She highlighted how important Tzu Chi’s aid was, especially to Ecuadorians far from home, like those living in New York:

It means a lot, especially since we live so far from our country.

This sentiment was echoed by members of the audience, many of whom felt powerless after the earthquake.

It was very devastating for us. My first reaction was, call Ecuador, my friends. Because I do have friends that live in Manabi [Province].

I felt like, I wish I could be there to help … It was heart-breaking, just heart-breaking to watch the news and all that.

We had a hard time seeing how people were suffering going through what they were going through. And we were so far and we couldn’t be there to help them.

Those who saw the film felt deeply gratitude to Tzu Chi for helping their people when they weren’t able to, and they were impressed with how the Cash-For-Relief program worked.

That they initially gave them jobs, and paid them, is really good. The way they did it, they gave an incentive for you to go out. You’re not just working to help, you’re also working for yourself. You contribute and at the same time you receive it.

This is really a wonderful initiative because they can help their own community, but at the same time they can reactivate the economy and provide for their families. And they’re not just the victims, now they’re part of the crew that’s helping to come up again, to overcome this tragedy.

Edison Severino, Business Manager of Local 78 labor union, who went to Ecuador with a group of volunteers from Local 78 to distribute emergency supplies and provide help soon after the earthquake, also gave a speech.

He recounted how he first met Tzu Chi volunteers while in Ecuador, not knowing much about who they are and what they do.

It was on that first day when we were cleaning up [toxic waste from the market in] Tarqui that we saw these volunteers with white pants and blue shirts. They said - We're from Queens too! From New York!

Since he met the volunteers during Tzu Chi’s disaster assessment mission, Edison didn’t get a chance to see what they would go on to accomplish through the Cash-For-Relief program until he saw the documentary at this screening, then applauded their work.

What a pleasure to see. Their work is wonderful. I take my hat off [to the volunteers]. We thought we did something there, but after seeing what they have done, it's like we didn't do anything. To Tzu Chi, Martin, George, congratulations for the great, great work you did. Keep it up, keep it up.

Paulina Jerez from the Ecuador International Center spoke next, and praised Tzu Chi for helping restore hope, faith, and strength in the people, and especially the belief in themselves that Ecuadorians needed at this difficult time. Others in the audience agreed.

They brought hope, and they brought so much help, and so many ways to see the situation, to overcome the situation, and to motivate them really. This organization really united them, all the community to work together to get out from the hole they have been in since the disaster.

George Chang, the Executive Director of Tzu Chi USA Northern Region, shared a few closing remarks near the end, followed by volunteers who performed their “Broom Dance” and energized the room with joy and laughter. In conclusion, the song “One Family” enveloped the room with love, and inspired best wishes and prayers in parting.

I’m really, really grateful for this organization. I pray to give them the strength and provide them [with what they need], so they can have the money or resources to continue, whenever there is a country in need, or any situation, that they always feel accountable to go and [help] again.

Ecuador Se Levanta has just begin its journey, and will next be part of a screening tour reaching five cities in Ecuador, and creating opportunities to explore local partnerships in support of Ecuadorians on the long road to full recovery after the earthquake. Stay tuned for more news soon!

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