At the time of Peru’s deadly 2007 earthquake, 20-year-old Milagros of Condorillo Bajo was at work inside a textile factory.
Rosario (pictured left) and two other volunteers of Peru conduct house-to-house surveys with Scott DiPretorio, program officer with the American Red Cross. The women survived a deadly earthquake two years ago, and now serve as volunteers, checking in on neighbors who received a temporary home from American Red Cross. Photo Credit: Kate Wade, American Red Cross
“We were startled, and started to think about our other family members. We wondered if everyone was OK; it was terrible day,” she explained.
Fortunately, her older sister Rosario, who was miles away inside their adobe home, safely evacuated with her two small children, grandmother and aunt. While they were relieved no one was injured, the family was overwhelmed by grief as they looked at their crumbling house. For the next month, they slept outside, taking turns on a couch they pulled from the rubble, fearful of aftershocks and afraid to leave behind everything they owned.
Each night, the men from their neighborhood would form a circle around the women and children, each taking a turn watching the darkness for looters and other threats. This, Rosario called a “circle of vigilance.”
Milagros eventually had to quit school, where she was studying psychology, to help provide for her now homeless family.
Soon afterward though, the sisters received materials and training from the American Red Cross, which helped them build a wood-framed temporary home. This assistance empowered the community to take charge of their recovery and immediately restored the family’s sense of security, dignity and ownership.
Today, Milagros, her sister and cousin Gabriela volunteer with the American Red Cross to prepare her neighbors for future emergencies.
“To wear the symbol of the Red Cross meant that we felt respected and trusted amongst our fellow community members,” Milagros said proudly. “We live a hard life, (but) we want to provide happiness to others who have also suffered.”
While not completely carefree, the sisters are optimistic their circumstances will continue to improve. When asked if she has plans to resume her studies and continue volunteering, Milagros answered, “Plans? Yes, definitely. We have many plans, dreams (and) goals.”
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.