Over the weekend of October 20th, 2017, my team and I lead a relief effort trip to the southern Mexico coastline area of Juchitan in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. It is located six hours drive southwest of Oaxaca city. This region was severely effected by an 8.2 earthquake on September 8, with significant tremors and earthquakes continuing almost daily. 20-30% of Juchitan’s thousands of houses were destroyed or rendered unsafe. Casa de Kids collaborated to expedite this effort with Rainbow World Fund, from San Francisco, CA. A Oaxaca city contact of mine, inspired this RWF trip, donated the use of a 30 foot semi-truck to take the goods.
I was honoured to represent Rainbow World Fund and Casa de Kids, and was the only “gringo” on our trip. Most of our 8 team members were natives from here with connections in Juchitan. Our team visited 5 of the towns that were the most severely damaged. Out of respect for the people effected, most of the worst scenes I did not photograph; I could not, as the residents of the former houses were watching, and/or sitting under a tarp on their empty plot where their houses once stood. Hundreds if not thousands are living and waiting under tarps, fairly exposed to the elements, hoping that somehow they’ll be able to rebuilt. Unfortunately, it was the population who built with very little funds, maybe over generations, that could not afford to lose anything. There is an obvious lack of males between 20–50 years of age, as they’re said to be working up north, meaning northern Mexico or the U.S. We brought relief to the towns of: Santa Maria-Xadani, Union Hidalgo, Ixtaltepec, and Juchitan, comprising a total population of 140,000 persons. In Xadani, for example, about 80% of the homes were decimated or severely damaged. Over forty people were killed by this earthquake in this region.
Arriving to the destination meant leaving the main highway lined with miles of rubble, dumped wherever possible to clear the residential lots of local towns. I was riding in the semi-truck. As we entered the first town, we saw block after block of rubble, house after house had collapsed or been scraped clean with piles of brick and twisted metal lining the sidewalks. After ten minutes drive through the town, I realised that neither my driver nor I had said a word. Nothing. It was too much to process. I’d never seen anything like it, and could not say anything. By the time our truck and van reached the first site that we’d planned to use as a base camp, some of our team members were in tears. They tried to hide them from the crowd that immediately gathered around the van. Before we could unpack they were asking for food and supplies.
Out of sight, we divided up the food stuffs into 450 bags with the basics for a few days, such as corn meal, salt, sugar, oil, sardines, chilis, beans and rice. A second package was designed for nursing moms, that included milk, baby food, diapers, and cleaning supplies. Distributing them into the neighbourhoods, and quickly deciding who needed them, or who needed sleeping pads and drinking water meant scouting for decimated lots. This was uncomfortable for us as residents watched us from under their tarps. When our van would stop, people would come from all directions. We gave out bags of food to about 5-10 households, then had to quickly take off before the crowds overwhelmed us. For two days we distributed the food packages plus 50 tarps, 50 sleeping pads, medicine, drinking water, clothes, a few toys and school supplies for kids. The sleeping pads were usually distributed to the elderly and children who had no bed or mattress. We usually had to carry them into their tents or “sleeping quarters” to place them on the concrete flooring, or wooden slatted frame.
A few temporary tent structures could be seen here and there, on empty lots, or public parks that had been donated by China and a few from Canada (they are marked in obvious ways to signify their country of origin). I saw none from the USA nor other countries. The Mexican government is processing claims for assistance, but I imagine that similar to the difficulties of such an effort, as the US experienced after Hurricane Katrina, it may be years before some people have a home. The people in this tropical region like to cook and relax outdoors, so only a very small 1-2 room structure is needed for even a large family.
In collaboration with Rainbow World Fund, we may be planning another trip very soon with a focus on longterm solutions, which may include water purification methods, temporary shelters, and more tarps. Any Readers who have contacts for these can refer them to me at: DrewVogt@yahoo.com
If you’d like to donate to this cause, almost 100% goes to help the people with almost zero used for administrative costs. To make a tax deductible donation to this effort, go to our website, donate, and notate on the form “Mexico Relief”: www.Rainbowfund.org . Thank you very much for caring. –Drew L. Vogt, Oaxaca, Mexico, October 24, 2017.