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Lutheran Disaster Response

The Ripple Effect of Japan’s Earthquake

Our thoughts and prayers remain with Japan’s communities impacted by today’s earthquake, one of the largest in history.  As we continue to monitor the situation, the ELCA has been in contact with companions throughout the region threatened by the earthquake’s ripple effect sending tsunami waves throughout the Pacific region.

Reports from ELCA Global Mission personnel located in Latin America state that precautionary measures were taken to evacuate most coastal communities.  Anxiety in the region decreased after initial reports from Hawaii indicated the impact would be less than originally anticipated.

Chile continues to wait for the last tail end of the tsunami to come to shore sometime late tonight.  According to ELCA companion EPES in Chile, since early this morning families were informed about the situation in Japan.  In coastal areas, schools were suspended so that families could take precautionary measures.  In Penco, families of two camps that EPES continues to work with after the devastating 2010 earthquake have moved to elevated areas or are awaiting further instruction from government authorities.  Local news services report some 80,000 to 130,000 Chileans are part of the country’s evacuation measures.

The video below from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) illustrates the earthquake’s ripple effect through the Pacific region.

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Children play to cope with the earthquake in Chile

Karen Anderson, missionary of the ELCA assigned to EPES writes:While nervous parents lined up to get water from the EPES well, accompanied bychildren too frightened to stay behind at home, the EPES staff produced crayons and paper from office supplies recovered from the disarray, and encouraged thechildren to draw.

“All the drawings and all the talk is about the earthquake,” reports Maria Stella Toro Santiago-based EPES educatorwho traveled to Concepción last week to support the local staff. “The level oftrauma is high.”

In the street, children are taking turns tossing one another about in an old handcart in their newly invented game of “Earthquake and Aftershocks.

— “How strong was that?” someone asks.

— “That was a 9!” the young girl vigorouslyshaking the cart announces, as a little boy relinquishes his space in the hotseat to the next comer.

As the shaking gets more energetic (“That’s an11!” an onlooker announces), the little girl’s bravado crumbles. “That’senough, Karina,” she pleads, “not so strong.”

Bravado,acting out and game-playing are all coping mechanisms that children adopt inthe aftermath of traumatic experiences like Chile’s 8.8 quake, one of thestrongest ever recorded in a country whose deceptively modern facade iscrumbling along social fault lines exposed by the seismic cataclysm.”

The reality is that the trauma caused by the earthquakes and after shocks both in  Chile as well as in Haiti, needs to be adressed. EPES has been working with an organization that is providing them with the tools and skills to work on trauma healing with children. The Lutheran Church in Haiti has in its agenda to do some treauma healing with the communities where they work. Trauma healing is the least that comes up in our minds when we think about disaster reflief but it is a fundamental issue to address. The scars are long lasting.

EPES continues to respond to earthquake victimes

Karen Anderson, ELCA missionary assigned to EPES has written:”we are stressed to the limit…EPES is one of the only organizations

actually on the ground functioning in Hualpen (the municipality was looted as were the clinics).

We are keeping things going by sending relief teams from Santiago (staff and volunteers) but that means

funding is needed and less people in Santiago where we also have an enormous amount of work to do. Carlos Rauda

who is here funded by the LWF to carry out an assessment will be hosted by EPES in Concepcion as he

works in the region. Food and health kits were distributed from our Center. We are

committed to responding with all the strength, organization, commitment, faith that we have.

We are working with Mercy Corps who approached us because of a former wonderful intern Matt Streng —

EPES is their local partner, to develop a post trauma program for children in Hualpen and other

areas of the region. Comfort for kids is a program they have done in China, Peru, Haiti, etc.

We are also working long, long hours and are faced with situations we have not

handled before.”

Please keep Karen and the EPES staff in your prayers.