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Youth in Chile played a key role in helping their communities following the earthquakes earlier this month.
Chilean youth were among the first to help their communities after the deadly magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck their area April 1.
Nearly a million people were evacuated from the coastal regions after the quake that killed six and generated a seven-foot tsunami. People in affected areas have felt more than 140 aftershocks, including a magnitude-7.6 quake late April 2. A number of those leading evacuation and recovery efforts were youth.
Just one week before the initial quake hit, dozens of youth participated in a World Vision emergency preparedness training session in Alto Biobio, a particularly earthquake-prone area of the country.
They developed skills in areas such as basic medical aid and rescue techniques, spiritual care and counseling, and emergency communications, among others. World Vision partners with the Red Cross, local governments, police, military, and firefighter services to provide professional-level training for the volunteers.
To ensure the youth get the support they need after training, World Vision partners with their churches and community groups. This creates a network that allows them to communicate quickly with their church or community leaders, local first responders, and World Vision response teams when disaster strikes.
As an emergency unfolds, the volunteer first-responders communicate with authorities, help neighbors, and sometimes work with World Vision staff to distribute relief supplies or provide emotional support for affected children and families. They also educate their communities on how to better prepare for the next one, too.
While their newly acquired knowledge meant the teenagers were among the first to leave their homes and lead others out during the quake’s aftermath, professional first-responders praised them for acting quickly on evacuation calls.
“I have a feeling of satisfaction because what we are doing has real impact in the lives of the children, youth, families, and communities,” says Fabiano Franz, World Vision’s disaster response leader for Latin America. “Especially because we can contribute to their protection and resiliency in the face of adversity.”
More than 12,000 community leaders and youth in 14 Latin American countries have trained as first-responders with World Vision since 2012, including about 3,000 Chileans.
Disaster response leaders note a genuine desire among Latin American youth to break free from a sense of entitlement that has kept them from serving their communities.
“They don’t want to be the listeners anymore,” Fabiano says. “They want to participate. This really brings them some purpose. We provided them the space to grow and to participate.”
During the weekend-long training session, World Vision leaders helped participants understand their sense of calling through Bible devotional time, establishing the biblical basis for serving their communities as first-responders.
“It has to do with the heart, with helping our neighbors, to make count what God has given us and help our neighbors — love our neighbors,” says Gonzalo Mena Santoval, 22, of Granada, Nicaragua, who used to be sponsored through World Vision and went through emergency responder training in 2013. “The best way to do that is to develop communities — to take care of and protect them before any disaster.”
Western Central and South America are prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, in particular. Rather than wait for someone to tell them what to do, they want to make sure those closest to them are prepared for the next emergency, which, in some cases, helps save lives.