When the dreadful 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Ecuador on April 16, 2016, Tzu Chi volunteers set their relief plans in motion for long-term aid in the form of financial, emotional and physical support. Not long after the earthquake struck, a Cash-For-Relief program was initiated in Manta, Portoviejo, Canoa, Pedernales and Jama that provided locals with much-needed job opportunities and initiated city-wide cleanups in the shortest time possible.
Toiling together with love in their hearts, lasting connections between locals and Tzu Chi volunteers were born. One connection we made along the way in Canoa specifically struck a chord within the heart of our founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen. La Parroquia San Andrés in Canoa was turned to rubble from the earthquake’s impact on the country. Coinciding with our methodology of long-term sustainable relief, a roadmap for further aid was laid forth that included the rebuilding of this beloved house of worship in the small coastal town.
The reconstruction project comprised of not only the church itself, but classrooms for children’s Bible studies, living quarters for priests and nuns, and a platform for Tzu Chi’s forthcoming humanitarian events in Canoa.
Reflecting on a New Start
After an initial groundbreaking ceremony a year following the 2016 earthquake, our Reuilding With Faith reconstruction mission was underway. We reached out to the community to assure that the new structure would be best suited for the local culture. Contractors and engineers used special architectural techniques throughout development to ensure this and the structure’s durability.
After a year of diligent expertise and dedication, reconstruction was completed this past June and a new place of love and worship was restored. While this chapter of our relief mission in Canoa came to an end, the grand opening of La Parroquia San Andrés marked the start of a new future for this resilient community.
Opening Ceremony Preparations
Our team returned to La Parroquia San Andrés on July 10th to prep for the public opening and provide a simultaneous medical outreach. Volunteers collaborated with Canoa’s nuns and local volunteers to begin preparations for the big debut.
Local and global Tzu Chi volunteers meticulously planned every detail of the opening ceremony. We wanted to ensure that the big day was representative of the care, thought and diligence that our relief methodologies consist of; no detail was overlooked. Volunteers rehearsed performances to perfection and prepared final touches for the anticipated day.
The final outcome of the new church far exceeded expectations throughout planning. We were honored to work with such a dedicated team of architects, engineers, construction workers and volunteers who allowed this two-year aspiration to come to life.
Sneak a peek at behind-the-scenes during pre-ceremony preparations.
A Grand Start of New Beginnings
As the community prepared for the official debut of the new church in early July, local residents and volunteers, Tzu Chi team members and individuals from all walks of life within the Canoa community congregated for the opening ceremony in Ecuador.
Catch live highlights from the opening ceremony.
As a day of love and unity, people from around the world celebrated compassion. Sister Mercedes’s parents, Marcos Jose Ajila Lapo and Eugenia Angela Jumbo Sarango, travelled for over 14 hours from Nangariza, Ecuador to join their daughter at the beginning of this new chapter.
With excitement filling the air in the new place of worship, Canoa Church engineer and local resident Julián Zamora proposed to his girlfriend during the ceremony, to the community’s surprise.
The ceremony came to a close with Tzu Chi USA CEO Han Huang unveiling a plaque in commemoration of Tzu Chi’s contribution to the Canoa community.
Catch a glimpse of the beautiful proposal and see more heart-touching moments from the ceremony.
An Immaterial Gift of Hope Thanks to Intercultural Unity
Our Rebuilding with Faith mission has demonstrated that love knows no bounds. Individuals from various backgrounds, religions and cultures came together throughout the mission to deliver compassion to repair that which was broken.
Tzu Chi USA’s CEO, Han Huang, reminded us at the opening ceremony that while languages and religions may differ across the globe, we are all the same in our humanity. While our team has made great accomplishments, it was the people of Canoa who demonstrated the true spirit of compassion. Between communal acceptance and gratitude, the people of Canoa accepted Tzu Chi as family.
Watch how universal love fills the community during this beautiful exchange of compassion.
Discover how the local community responded to the church’s completion.