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Canoa is a beach town in the Manabí province of Ecuador, known for its laid-back lifestyle and beach tourism. The town is now in shambles after a powerful earthquake struck the coast of Ecuador on April 16. With their homes damaged or destroyed, Canoa residents are displaced and living in informal tent communities relying on donations of food, water and hygiene supplies. Many lost loved ones and are in disbelief, not knowing where to start the long road to recovery.
A few days after we arrived, our emergency response team met with the Ministry of Health in Canoa. Where could we start this journey of recovery? We discussed the immense need for psychosocial support. We were then asked to begin with a single day – to work alongside the health center to design a one-day program and secure resources for a community psychosocial event in the park.
On Thursday, April 28, in the midst of destruction, AmeriCares partnered with the Canoa Ministry of Health to provide a warm, safe environment for children – a space for kids to “be kids” and where their parents could relax, receive health information, and interact with mental health professionals. More than 65 children and parents were there. Children happily engaged in dynamic, yet structured activities such as drawing, building with Legos, and soccer.
Meantime, the adults spent time with a team of psychologists to share information on how best to take care of themselves and their children during this difficult time. Families were then entertained by live music and an interactive clown performance. They laughed and danced, and for a moment seemed to forget the difficulties they face in the aftermath of the earthquake. Following these activities, children and adults participated in a practical session on staying healthy which included hand washing, teeth brushing, wearing protective footwear and safe places to play. Concluding the event, each family was given hygiene kits and relief items to prevent disease and support recovery. Many of the items were donated by AmeriCares.
For a more detailed view of the reality that families in Ecuador face after the earthquake, see this recent article on the number of schools destroyed, number of children without access to school and importance of reestablishing routine with the help of supportive, caring adults and interactions with peers.