September 19th had been a somber day in Mexico for many years – it was the day the dreadful 1985 earthquake shocked the country with its destructive power. On the 35th anniversary of this deadly quake, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the country in 2017, just two hours after a national earthquake drill was held. The states of Puebla and Morelos, as well as the Greater Mexico City area, received widespread damage.

Homes, schools, and businesses, trembled and collapsed with people trapped inside. Survivors lived in tents without access to basic amenities, or slept in damaged buildings which they feared could fall on them at any moment. The people were in dire need of aid, and Tzu Chi was there to provide it with love and care. We asked the community of Jojutla directly how best we could help them. It was not only the clear need for supplies which weighed upon their minds, but the revitalization of education. Thus, after our initial aid and medical outreach, our long-term relief begins with the rebuilding of a school in Jojutla. 

Homes, schools, and businesses, trembled and collapsed with people trapped inside. Survivors lived in tents without access to basic amenities, or slept in damaged buildings which they feared could fall on them at any moment. The people were in dire need of aid, and Tzu Chi was there to provide it with love and care.

We asked the community of Jojutla directly how best we could help them. It was not only the clear need for supplies which weighed upon their minds, but the revitalization of education.
Thus, after our initial aid and medical outreach, our long-term relief begins with the rebuilding of a school in Jojutla

Groundbreaking

2019 Groundbreaking

When an earthquake rocked the country on September 19, 2017, 296 students in Jojutla were left at a loss when their school was destroyed. Now, however, through great love, diligence, and collaboration, we’ve reached a significant milestone. 

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How can you not be moved, when dreams start becoming realized.

Pablo Quintero Valladeres - Morelos Institute Architect

After almost two years, we saw students standing here wearing their school uniforms. I feel hope

Debbie Chen, Tzu Chi Volunteer

The groundbreaking ceremony on June 29th commemorated the beginning of our Building Trust With Love reconstruction mission of The Morelos Institute. After a generous land donation from a local benefactor and all necessary preparations completed, construction is now officially underway with an anticipated completion date in the Fall of 2020!

3-D model of reconstruction plan presented at groundbreaking ceremony
Thanks to a generous donation from a local benefactor, the future site of the Morelos Institute will make for a more resilient and disaster-prepared school.
Volunteer Architect Pablo Quintero Valladares presents specially designed reconstruction plans for the new academic building, which will be executed with great speed and diligence.
Tzu Chi volunteers met with Volunteer Architect Pablo Quintero Valladares and Marta Franco Mother Superior to finalize reconstruction plans and allocate budgets. With a strong work ethic and impressive resourcefulness, the powerful team ensured the new school will be best suited for the local community.
Over 1,000 students left without a school following this disaster will soon be supported with a safer place to continue to learn and reach their full potential.
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I look back on my childhood here, it's all reduced to dust now.

Jorge Gonzalez Gutierrez - Alumnus Morelos Institute

A school is not defined by its walls but [by] its students and teachers.

Morelos Institute Principal Adelina Ensur Esperalta
For dedicated educators at the Morelos Institute, their students have always been their first priority. With the seventy-five-year-old school destroyed in the earthquake, both students and educators felt at a total loss. Those children who did return to school elsewhere were placed in classrooms which were at times crowded with sixty other students.
According to locals, many times the building materials used to construct schools do not include steel for support. By providing sturdier construction materials, we intend to build a school which will have a better chance of withstanding similar disaster situations.
The earthquake left a lasting psychological impact on the young students, the fear of another disaster occurring again a constant thought in their minds. Approximately 1,000 students were displaced in the aftermath.
The community had faith that the school would someday be up and running again, with classes in session as usual. The Catholic nuns from Morelos Institute had dedicated their lives to selflessly helping others, and witnessing the devastation first-hand, Tzu Chi volunteers vowed to lend them that same help.

Medical Outreach

2018 Medical Outreach

A year after the quake, our relief efforts continued to ensure impacted communities reached a full recovery. Thanks to ongoing relationships based on trust and compassion, and in participation with local volunteers, survivors from the mission’s first stops in Mexico City and Morelos were empowered with love and a newfound sense of resilience.

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The earthquake united us, we said: "I'm your neighbor, let's work together, we're going to move forward.

Alejandro De La Luca, Tzu Chi Volunteer

The teachings of Tzu Chi, have shown us that we can do it.

Tzu Chi Volunteer

As the mission continued on to Zacatepec, we met residents who still suffered from lasting physical ailments a year later. Countless survivors had been enduring chronic pain from encounters with structural collapses and injuries from falling debris during the disaster. On top of being physically debilitating, chronic pain can cause lasting emotional implications. This is no way to live. 

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I've been in a lot of pain since the earthquake, I lost my son and my mother. You've helped with my eyesight and hearing. I was hesitant to come, but I see now there was no need to worry.

Alma Rosa Calderon - Zacatepec Resident

To ensure a sustainable quality of life for survivors, we provided medical services and emotional support to impacted residents, many of whom sought aid for the first time since the disaster. Numerous aid recipients were so moved by Tzu Chi compassion that they were inspired to find their own inner strength and help others

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I was moved by the fact that they (Tzu Chi) came, expecting nothing in return, and especially since I was going through a rough time, where I wasn’t finding the support I needed. Once Tzu Chi arrived, the transformation began.

Ivonne Garcia, Tzu Chi Local Volunteer
  • 2017

Disaster Assessment

2017 Disaster Assessment

A mere six days after the earthquake hit on September 19th, Tzu Chi volunteers were already in Mexico conducting preliminary disaster assessment, and mapping out long-term recovery plans. We conducted home visits, learned the stories of those affected, and on December 7th, people from across the globe arrived in Tláhuac, Mexico to begin the distributions.

The team's disaster assessment mission officially began in the municipality of Jojutla, a city located near the epicenter of the 2017 earthquake that took place on September 19th.
An estimated 500 families in Jojutla lost everything in the earthquake. Some 300 buildings had crumbled into the streets, with many more set to be demolished due to the heavy damages they'd sustained.
As Tzu Chi volunteers prepared for the forthcoming cash card distributions, our disaster assessment team traveled straight into the heart of hard-hit communities, offering emotional support while compiling lists of people in need of aid.
Lacking electricity, shelter, clean drinking water, and properly stored food, there were some particularly serious public health concerns. With so many injured and traumatized, it became evident that medical outreach services would be especially beneficial.
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This is an old city, dating back to 1840. The earthquake was the most severe in 200 years. Buildings here are very vulnerable and they collapsed easily.

Stephen Huang - Executive Director of Global Tzu Chi Volunteers

Disaster Aid Distribution

Over the course of ten distributions from December 7th, 2017 to January 14th, 2018, Tzu Chi provided financial relief for 10,355 impacted families, and additionally distributed 11,151 eco-friendly blankets.

Thanks to compassion from our volunteers, survivors were able to cope with the emotional toll of this disaster. One aid recipient showed his deep sentiments of appreciation by hugging a Tzu Chi volunteer as he begins to heal with resilience.
Our team administered large-scale distributions to hardest-hit communities throughout Mexico to ensure success in their recovery. Survivors suffering from post-disaster injuries and psychological traumas were instilled with emotional and physical strength by the end of each distribution day.
A letter of support was given to aid recipients as a reminder to embody the compassion they receive, and pay this generosity forward onto others. With spiritual wisdom, survivors will be able to embrace post-disaster life challenges that may lie ahead.
As hard-hit communities were fostered with a newfound sense of optimism and global unity, one aid recipient’s smile serves as a beacon of hope for the future.

Consider becoming a donor today and help Tzu Chi continue to offer support to communities in need.
Together, we’re unstoppable in our power to ease suffering and change the world for the better.

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