Habitat for Humanity Chile to continue serving families affected by the 2010 earthquake

One year after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Chile, hope has been restored for many people. However, much work remains. Habitat for Humanity Chile is committed to continue serving affected families with permanent, sustainable housing solutions.

Read Chile: One year later (4MB)

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica (February 25, 2011) – For several days after the magnitude 8.8 earthquake and tsunami rocked the length of Chile on February 27, 2010, strong aftershocks threatened the country’s faith in recovery. Through new houses, home repairs and technical support for families seeking government housing subsidies, Habitat for Humanity Chile continues working to restore hope.

José Aguilar and his wife, Blanca, had lived in the same house in Curepto since 1963, near the epicenter of the quake. On the night of February 27, the couple watched as decades of work fell to the ground. “The door wouldn’t open, we just heard noises and the walls were falling,” says Aguilar. “I hugged my wife and expected the worst.” José and Blanca became the first earthquake-affected family to build with Habitat for Humanity Chile, now safely residing in their new home.

Francisca Angulo, a 61-year-old artisan and poet, lives in El Monte, in Chile’s Metropolitan region, where Habitat for Humanity Chile has completed 15 houses in partnership with earthquake-affected families. Angulo’s new house is a basic, permanent unit that can be expanded over time as her financial situation improves. The house sits adjacent to what was left of her previous home, from which she can now begin to salvage viable pieces to use in the future. From the security of this simple, secure home, she can apply for additional government housing subsidies and begin to plan for further improvements.

Habitat Chile’s long-term disaster recovery effort, “Newen Ñeque para Chile” (Physical and Spiritual Strength for Chile), aims to provide a path to recovery for 10,000 families through the reparation of 4,000 homes, 1,000 new core houses and 5,000 families served through technical support and training.

There is still much ground to cover, but with the capacity Habitat Chile has built in the past year, Habitat plans to more than double its efforts in the upcoming year. And efforts will continue as long as families remain in need of housing assistance.

South America’s vulnerability to seismic activity is due in large part to the mountains that trace the length of Chile. This propensity to disasters convinced Habitat for Humanity International’s Disaster Response team to train 24 Habitat Chile staff members. The knowledge strengthened the capacity of the local Habitat organization to respond effectively and efficiently to disasters with housing-related solutions. The training took place just two months before the February earthquake.

The first year of recovery has provided a unique challenge. Habitat Chile’s offices were severely damaged, and communication was limited. However, the organization managed to mobilize within the first hours, and was fully operational within three days of the quake. “We have given as rapid, and as quality a response as possible,” says Luis Santibañez, National Director of Habitat for Humanity Chile. “Despite the fact that we had little experience in responding to disaster situations, we have been able to overcome the challenges and move forward.”

Self-empowerment and volunteer involvement have been cornerstones of Habitat’s mission from its beginnings nearly 35 years ago, and have played a key role the country’s recovery. Local volunteers were the first to mobilize. Shortly after, neighboring countries such as Argentina provided volunteers who are experts in the field to help assess the physical and social situation of affected families and assist Habitat Chile in mounting its response. Eighty international volunteers from Delta Airlines also lent a hand, helping to rebuild homes in the Metropolitana region.

For many Chilean families who are living as if it were the day after, the February 2010 earthquake is still front page news. Habitat’s one year report on the disaster includes milestones in the recovery efforts and ways that you can get involved.

About Habitat for Humanity Chile
Habitat for Humanity Chile works with at-risk families and communities to provide housing solutions, facilitate community support and offer diverse services in an efficient and sustainable manner. Habitat Chile served 6,300 families in the seven years prior to the February 2010 earthquake. For more information, visit .

About Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean
Habitat for Humanity first opened its doors in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in 1979, and has since helped more than 100,000 low-income families to access adequate housing in the region. Headquartered in San Jose, Costa Rica, the Latin America and Caribbean regional office coordinates the efforts of 16 national organizations, as well as unique partnerships throughout the region. For more information, visit .