Family Story From Lota, Chile
By Heidi Isaza
“I was at home with my two children,” Edlemira Fonseca Chavez remembers. “At the time of the earthquake we didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know what it was.”
“The whole house had fallen down and my daughter was trapped,” she shared. “The only thing I wanted was to be able to get out with my kids, nothing else.”
Her daughter, Ninoska, 18, almost didn’t make it out. “When I opened my eyes, I saw the wall leaning over me. I don’t know how, but I was able to get out [of my bed],” remembers Ninoska Gutierrez Chaves. During the earthquake her family’s house had split in half and her bedroom was in the part of the house that had fallen down the hill.
“I couldn’t hear my mom or my brother, so I started yelling,” she remembers. Her mom tried to open the door to her room, but it was stuck. “I tried to open the door but I couldn’t,” she remembers. “After a few minutes, I sat down with my Bible and I told my mom to leave, that I wasn’t important and I sat, waiting for the wall to fall on me,” she remembers. “I thought I was going to stay there because there wasn’t any way out.”
Finally, after a few minutes, Edlemira came back with her brother and they were able to get Ninoska out of her room.
But the difficulties had just begun for Eldemira and her children. “I went to my parents’ house and they told me something had happened to my sister. I went to see her. She was dead,” she said through tears.
Today, Eldemira, Ninoska and her son, Juan Sebastian, 11, (sponsored) are living in a tent with her parents, siblings and cousins. “It’s not comfortable,” shared Ninoska. “But, the truth is I am happy even though I don’t have a house and my aunt died because my mom is alive, my brother is alive and my dad is alive. For me that is the most important.”
Eldemira couldn’t agree more. At the same time, however, as a mother she can’t help but think about the practical things, like what she is going to give her children to eat. She was able to go buy three 50 kilo bags of flour before the stores ran out of food. One hundred and fifty kilos would be a lot of food if she was just feeding her children and immediate family—she’s not. “There are many neighbors who don’t have anything,” she says. “So, we have been giving them a little so they can make some bread.”
It’s been five days since the earthquake and Eldemira is starting to worry because her supply is running out, she doesn’t have any money to buy food with and even if she did, there are no stores to buy from. “We have only 50 kilos [of flour] left for 50 families,” she said, unsure how long their supplies will last.
One thing that has helped Eldemira is to know that she is not alone. “Maria, [the ADP] manager has been here with us,” she says, noting that this has helped a lot.
World Vision is in the process of distributing supplies to the survivors and setting up Child Friendly Spaces for children like Juan Sebastian, 11, who, according to his mom, haven’t been the same since the earthquake. “He’s alright sometimes,” she says. “He plays. But, when night comes, he gets depressed and goes to bed.”
In the middle of this tragedy, however, there are some bright spots for Eldamira and her family. Four days after the quake, they celebrated Juan Sebastian’s 11th birthday. They didn’t have a cake or eleven candles, but that didn’t stop them from finding something positive to focus on. “We only had one candle” share Eldamira, “So, we blew [the one candle] out 11 times,” with a small smile on her face.
And Ninoska, a former sponsored child, says her faith has been strengthened by this terrible experience. “I tell my friends, ‘Look at me because what you are looking at is a walking miracle.’ That’s what I believe.”
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press.