On Sunday August 14, 2016 at 10 pm an earthquake rocked the Colca Valley devastating the villages of Ichupampa, Yanque and Achoma, and affecting many more. A local grandmother and her grandson died, crushed in their home. An American tourist died, crushed in his hotel bed next to his wife. They were on vacation, newly retired. We discovered her the next morning with a crushed femur, lying on the floor of the front entrance of the municipality building. Cynthia and I’s time was balanced between arranging a helicopter to evacuate her and another local man who was severely injured, as well as providing food and water to others who were hurt, and coordinating with the local health clinic, the Red Cross and the fire department rescue workers.
In the coming days and weeks, we were at the mercy of whatever was asked of us, one moment to the next. Half of the homes in Ichupampa crumbled, including the kindergarten. In Yanque, the village where we lived for two months, more than 40 families were living in the main square - first only covered by blankets in the freezing nights of a mountain winter. Then two days later, they were housed in tents provided by the government, too hot to be in during the day, and barely not freezing at night. It continued to be impressed upon us the need to teach community leadership and local decision making, which will become the guiding principles of our program.
We deeply bonded with the families in Yanque, serving breakfast and dinner every day out of the church parish. We organized and managed clothing drives. Urban Angels continued to coordinate medical assistance and relief efforts for many non-profits coming to the Colca Valley from all over Peru. The earthquake presented an accelerated process for us to get to know the Catholic Archbishop, state government officials, and federal military, health and emergency organization leaders. It was a deeply profound experience.