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Ecuador rallies after earthquake; relief donations sought locally

CUENCA, Ecuador — When we set off on an extended trip to Ecuador a few weeks ago we had no idea that we would have a brush with the most serious natural disaster to take place in this South American country in at least 40 years.
The April 16 earthquake that registered 7.8 on the Richter scale was a very unsettling experience for us, but for the people living near the epicenter (only 150 miles from our location) it was a disaster. As of a week after the earthquake there were nearly 600 confirmed dead, 155 missing, 8,340 injured, and some 25,000 people housed in emergency shelters.
Estimates for the cost of rebuilding the damaged area ranged up to $3 billion.
Our only previous personal connection to Ecuador was through Rotary Exchange student Domenica Vasquez, who attended Middlebury Union High School in 2012-2013 and lived with the Foster-Provencher family in Weybridge. Her stay in the Middlebury area touched many people, and her family became like extended family to the Fosters and Provenchers.
Domenica and her family live in Portoviejo, one of the cities hit hardest by the earthquake. Although Domenica and her family were uninjured, their city is devastated. A 2.5-square-mile area of the central business district was completely destroyed, and more than 100 people died there. We have seen television footage showing just how extensive the damage has been to homes, businesses, roads, bridges and water systems. There will be a very long rebuilding process in Portoviejo and the rest of the affected area.
One of the most heartening experiences we have had is seeing the way Ecuadorians all over the country are coming together to collect food, water, clothing and medicine to send to the hard hit coastal areas. Here in Cuenca, where we are staying, there has been an outpouring of donations. The city hall is busy night and day as a center for volunteers sorting and packing everything imaginable for those affected by the earthquake.
But as much as Ecuadorians have pulled together to meet the many challenges caused by the earthquake, they cannot do it alone. We know that many people all over the world are sending donations to Ecuador. We believe the personal connection already established between Middlebury and Portoviejo can be a channel through which concerned residents of Addison County can provide assistance to Ecuador.
The Middlebury Rotary Club is collecting tax-deductible donations to send to the Rotary Club of Portoviejo to assist in their recovery efforts. These funds will be administered under the care of Domenica’s father, a member of the Portoviejo Rotary Club and vice mayor of the city. If you would like to contribute to this effort please make out a check to the Rotary Club of Middlebury with “Ecuador Relief” on the memo line, and mail it to PO Box 46, Middlebury, VT 05753.

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