Caritas Chile, together with other organisations from the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, works to promote human dignity, social justice and human rights based on the preferential option for the poor and the excluded. Founded on 23 April 1956, its first president was Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez, who later became president of Caritas Internationalis.
With its mission aimed at integral, supportive and sustainable development, Caritas Chile currently has programmes regarding these issues: emergencies and risk management, vulnerable children and young people, aging, employment, addiction and social exclusion, indigenous peoples, migrants, health, prisons, justice and peace, civic responsibility and the environment.
One of its main actions is responding to the various social and natural disasters that affect the country, all of which is exposed to some kind of threat.
Experiences such as the eruption of the Chaitén volcano and the huge earthquake followed by a tsunami on 27 February 2010, led to a turning point and reflection in Chilean society and public and civic institutions on how the country should prevent, mitigate, prepare for and recover from the impact of disasters.
Caritas Chile has joined in this process and, via its Environment, Risk Management and Emergencies Programme (MAGRE), is seeking to generate sufficient sustainable expertise within the organisation and in local communities to analyse risk reduction, boost capacity to act before adverse events occur and coordinate recovery processes.
Caritas Chile’s central team consists of 21 members of staff. However, as a national network it operates in coordination with the country’s 26 diocesan organisations, which have their own professional teams and groups of volunteers. In addition, ten national commissions provide specialised pastoral care.
In terms of relations with the confederation, Caritas Chile works coherently with the 22 organisations of the Latin American and Caribbean Secretariat of Caritas (SELACC) based on a shared strategic plan. It also collaborates on a solidarity basis with Caritas Germany, Caritas Switzerland, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Caritas Italy.
Thanks to a Caritas project to reduce the effects of disasters, residents armed themselves with large containers of water, spades and anything else they could get their hands on to fight the spread of the fire.
The 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Chile on 27 February was one of the largest ever recorded. The epicentre was near Chile’s second largest city, Concepción, but tremors were in neighbouring countries such as Argentina and Peru and tsunami warnings were issued in dozens of countries.
It was the worst disaster Chile had suffered in half a century, not only a strong earthquake but a tsunami too. Two million people were affected. Caritas’s emergency response began immediately: its strong local networks helping it reach the most vulnerable people in the most remote areas, often more rapidly than the government could.
Caritas Internationalis has been supporting earthquake victims from the first day of the disaster with emergency aid and long term rehabilitation projects. Altogether, the Caritas response reached more than 800,000 people.
By Lorenzo Figueroa, Secretary General of Caritas Chile One year on from the earthquake and tsunami the poor are in a more precarious state. Indeed, an official government study reports that today Chile has 500 thousand more poor people as a result of the disaster. Road infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, has been rebuilt. ...
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.