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A Note From Natasha: From Immediate Response to Long-term Recovery

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to take a minute to address everyone about the 7.8 earthquake that hit the coast of Ecuador. Some of you are new to Hearts of Gold so I also want to say welcome and that I’m pleased to introduce you to the rest of our expat family here in Cuenca. Lastly, I wanted to say Thank you – to all of you. The outpouring of support from our home community has been A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Literally, through all this craziness of the past few weeks it’s been your support that has driven our small office team to do more each day.

Even in the greatest darkness there is light. While this experience has been emotionally draining for many of the dedicated people we’re working with, I have also never felt so much gratitude in my life. So. Much. Gratitude. For you, for our families, for the team we work with, for Ecuador as a country and for the chance to be of service.

The Sunday right after the earthquake every single Hearts of Gold team member was mobilized, each doing something without even as much of a phone call of coordination. This is what happens when your job, just so happens to be your calling.

I don’t think any of us slept that Sunday- the sleep we did have was brief as our bodies ached with energy.

Each day we did all we could to do to help. We connected organizations, answered questions and emails, made phone calls, mobilized volunteers, placed item orders for much needed supplies for the coast, drove around town, dropped of donations and tried our hardest to let you know what we have been up to so that you can see and feel where your money has been going during this time.

Because of your support in the first week alone we were able to distribute over $1000 a day in tailored, up to the minute aid relief.

Heck, we even helped fund a flight on an airplane to help run donations to remote areas so people could receive help as quickly as possible. Yup. YOU helped us hire a plane so that donations could arrive as fast as possible to some of the hardest to reach areas. Rock on! Talk about boots on the ground.

In week 2, things began to change. Even more information came in, more eye witness accounts, and more tales of the scope of destruction with an ever rising body count. We knew things had took a turn for the worst when our request list went from food, matches and sunscreen to boots, industrial gloves and 5,000 pounds of lime to cover the smell of decomposing bodies. Sometimes the work needed to be done isn’t sexy, but necessary, and it’s our mission to help with necessities.

And then you meet someone who puts you to shame. I had the pleasure of speaking with a women named Liz at Canoa’s ground zero. Her number was given to me in an email with a request to help. I read her email and wondered how we could help her all the way from Cuenca but I knew we needed to try. I took a deep breath and called. The phone rang, Liz picked up. I could hear the tension and franticness in her voice- but there was also incredible strength there. This women was busy and she was holding things together for the people around her.  There was noise and shouting in the background, it took her a minute to piece together who I was and why I was calling. I was calling to help.

From the sounds of it, she needed help- immediately. Most residents in Canoa didn’t have shelter and it had been raining- they needed to build shelters she told me on the phone so that “no more babies would die in the mud. She asked for $500 to buy thick plastic to create temporary shelters. There was a pause on the phone, and I said “Just tell me how to get it to you”.

At the end of our call, Liz called me a miracle worker. And I laughed. Me? No Way. She was… Liz was in the thick of it, pouring out her heart and soul, and giving it her all. I thanked her for what she was doing sent her the money she desperately needed so that there would be less people shivering in the mud and rain. HIGH FIVE Hearts donors- you make this type of immediate response possible- this is what YOUR donations have been doing at ground zero; providing shelter and immediate needs to many people in need.

As we move into week 3 following the disaster brought by the tremendous earthquake, more concrete projects are taking form to help communities on the coast. And there’s nothing our team loves more than a good, powerful project.

After some preliminary meetings, Hearts of Gold is proud to partner with Colectivo Cultural Madre Tierra, Yakumama Lounge, San Sebas Café, Brigada Surfistas por un Techo, and the Fundacion Nobis to establish a temporary, sustainable and eco-conscious relief camp to help 250+ families in Canoa find shelter and security.

The town of Canao is in rubbles and needs to be cleared and rebuilt. With this in mind we’re working with local leaders and government to host the encampment just outside of Canoa on 7.4 acres of repurposed farm land. Our collective goal is to provide this traumatized and resource-deprived community a sustainable place to live for 1-2 years as their town of Canoa is reconstructed.

The camp is being built to Sphere standards and will feature sanitation and water treatment technologies, a community kitchen, showers, compost toilets, a central community space, medical attention, and long-term relief tents for housing. All things being built are environmentally sound and sustainable.

This project is a massive undertaking, and will require continued support from volunteers and financial and in-kind item donations. Help raise the estimated $50,000 needed to establish the first phase of this relief camp, and to provide shelter, security, hope and normalcy to 250 people, 50  families,  on the coast.

Please make a donation today to help make this encampment a reality, and if you’ve already made a contribution, we thank you deeply for your gift and ask that you please consider making another thoughtful donation of $27 dollars.

To get involved in disaster relief, we’re looking for a volunteers to help remotely and directly with a variety of services and skills. All talents are needed and valued, so if you have a desire to give back and are committed to help please send us a message today to get involved in disaster relief and Canoa camp services.

And stay tuned the next couple weeks to learn about our upcoming disaster relief event scheduled for the last weekend in June!


Natasha Verkley

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