Friday 22 June 2012
Canadian Andre Bloemink reflects on his first deployment in Peru
Andre Bloemink is a ShelterBox Response Team member from Fernie, British Columbia. Andre recently returned from his first ShelterBox deployment to Peru, which has seen extensive flooding in recent months. Andre wrote the following account of his experience in Peru:
Spring 2012 saw the worst rains in 50 years hit many rural and urban areas within the Apurimac Province of Peru. Many residents suffered the loss of habitat, crops and livestock. Not only were certain villages and homes physically washed from their foundations, many remained in imminent danger. Saturated land threatened to succumb to weight and gravity as was literally cracking and creeping beneath homes down hillsides in the Andes.
As a ShelterBox Response Team member on my first deployment, I was able to see firsthand how much we are needed in the far-reaching corners of the globe. Before leaving for Peru I was often asked what was the nature of the disaster, as it had not received much media attention. It is these types of deployments which makes the contributions of our past, ongoing and future donors all the more relevant.
While in Peru, it was the families affected in rural areas who were often forgotten, even by their own countrymen. Initial research indicated that roughly 4,500 people had been displaced from their homes and somewhere in the region of 25,000 hectares of cropland lost due to heavy rains and mudslides in February and March.
As a member of the third deployment team into Peru, we found the logistical work completed by teams 1 and 2 invaluable to the work we were able to complete whilst on deployment. Our team worked closely with INDECI (Peru's department of Civil Defense) and Rotary in Lima to identify areas of greatest need. Sorting through the logistics of transportation in a region with a compromised infrastructure created challenges.
The main thrust of my deployment found me in the western region of Apurimac Province, in the Andes Mountains of Peru along with my fellow team member, Sallie Buck (UK). We spent 9 days of our 16-day deployment in the regions of Chincheros and Anduhuaylas. While in Chincheros along with SRT James Webb (UK), we found two examples of villages that had been evacuated never to return to their homes as it was deemed too dangerous by Federal geologists. The village of Ccechuaapaka was a particularly heart breaking and heartwarming story at the same time.
The villagers of Ccechuaapaka were relocated to an area now known as Mollepampa on the outskirts of the City of Chincheros. It was up to our team to determine the level of need required. Our initial intelligence provided by INDECI, mentioned that 70 or more families could be affected. The average family size in Peru is approximately 6 people. When we arrived what we found were approximately 45 families who had been living in shanty existence, some with building materials crafted from local vegetation. Temperatures in this region varied from mid-20's C during the day and approaching the freezing mark at night as they are moving into their winter season.
You quickly gained a strong sense of community here. The Mayor of this village, Germaine Florez, and elders sat down with us to determine the exact number of families requiring aid, logistics for receiving this aid and plans for the future. We were treated with uncompromised hospitality and gratitude. A planned road to this new settlement was under construction and had not yet been completed. We were told the road would be finished by the time our shipment of boxes had travelled from Lima to Chincheros.
Our shipment of Boxes arrived in Chincheros on April 21, 2012, of which 49 were allotted for Mollepampa. The road to the new settlement had not yet been completed. Mayor Florez did not see this as an impediment and proposed that the boxes be carried by their villagers the 45 minutes from Chincheros to Mollepampa, along trails primarily used for moving livestock. Once again this is a Village strong in community and strong in character. Within two days Mollepampa had shipped their own aid by foot, cleared a corn field by hand and had erected 49 ShelterBox tents each on their own individual pad.
A village which had previously been sleeping in longhouse style shanties made of light corrugated tin roofs and cornstalk walls now had their own ShelterBox to keep clean, warm and dry with their own families. When told these tents and equipment were a gift from our donors around the world to them they were rendered to tears and gratitude. Mayor Florez speaking on behalf of his village mentioned that for all of those involved with ShelterBox, they were eternally grateful. They had experienced trying times since mudslides took their village and their livestock. Their spirit as a community, although bruised, had remained strong and the gift of aid would help that spirit grow stronger as they regained their feet.
As a first deployment, I was told I had seen many things not typical to other deployments. From sitting in audience with high ranking government officials, to sorting through logistical challenges in regards to transporting aid. I can say that for all of the hard work put in by everyone at ShelterBox, it is seeing a family posing proudly in front of a newly erected tent they help set up, that this is a job well done.
Gratitude, as always, goes to our donors for allowing us the privilege to deliver aid to those in need on their behalf. As well to all of those who work on our behalf behind the scenes to keep our teams safe and informed while we are on deployment in the field.
I look forward to future deployments, to being able to deliver shelter, warmth and dignity on behalf of our donors.