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Caritas volunteers prepare tarps for distribution outside the Caritas headquarters in Talca, one of the major cities hit hard by the February 28th 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile.   Credit: Katie Orlinsky/Caritas 2010

Caritas volunteers prepare tarps for distribution outside the Caritas headquarters in Talca, one of the major cities hit hard by the February 28th 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile.
Credit: Katie Orlinsky/Caritas

One year after a devastating earthquake followed by a tsunami that hit Chile, Caritas is continuing to help thousands of victims rebuild their homes and lives. Altogether, the Caritas response reached more than 800,000 people.

The earthquake in Chile on 27 February 2010 was the worst disaster of this type the country had experienced in half a century. More than two million people were affected.

In the first three months after the disaster, Caritas mobilized all its resources to provide emergency aid.

Caritas Internationalis launched an appeal for US$8.8 million (6.5 million euro) to cover people’s basic needs. Roughly 4000 tons of aid were delivered including food, water and beverages, tents, blankets, bedding, mattresses, hygiene items, clothing, stoves and building materials.

The local network of Caritas offices and parishes as well as many volunteers were involved in the response and made it easier to quickly get aid to the survivors.

The Caritas response in numbers 

  • 4000 tons of food and other aid delivered
  • More than 800,000 people reached with emergency aid
  • Around 8,000 people supported through long term rehabilitation measures 235homes built and 600 more repaired
  • More than 600 family businesses or cooperatives supported

“In a context of isolated communities, interrupted communication means, damaged roads and shortages in the country, the contribution of Caritas has been essential, because we were able to relatively quickly reach the most remote and needy communities. We often got there even faster than the government,” said Lorenzo Figueroa, Secretary General of Caritas Chile.

Since June, Caritas concentrated its aid efforts on rehabilitation and reconstruction. Programmes focused on three areas: housing, family or cooperative businesses and community development. More than 20 communities located in vulnerable areas, in particular along the coast, benefit from this extensive support.

“The basic strategy of these projects is their integral character and the active participation of communities through community assessments, the implementation of housing initiatives and economic activities. The communities are in control of the implementation of the project,” said Mr. Figueroa.

Giving people a sense of control over the programmes has led to better results overall and built up new resources and capacities in the communities that will remain once the programmes are finished.

“It has been very interesting to observe how communities that were despairing and paralyzed now have new leaders and organisations such as neighbourhood groups, economic committees or women support groups and how, together with the Christian communities, they are getting active to rebuild their lives,” said Mr. Figueroa.

In addition to programmes focusing on the reconstruction of shelter and economic activities, psychological and social support is provided for children and adults in all the involved communities.