“We want to continue planting seeds of hope”

9 October, 2018

Jaime Rhemrev

Jaime Rhemrev, IsraAID Country Director in Mexico, describes the work her team is doing to help communities rebuild after the 2017 earthquakes — and to reduce the risk posed by future disasters. It’s been over one year since two devastating earthquakes hit Mexico. Almost 500 lives were lost, and many livelihoods, infrastructures, and homes were destroyed. The road to recovery has not been easy; there are still many potholes, fissures, and crevices — both physical and social — that need to be mended or restored after the devastating earthquakes.

Communities in the states of Morelos, Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, saw their roads broken open, their churches fall apart, their schools collapse, their hospitals debilitated, and their homes destroyed. The educational sector was hit hard. The severity and magnitude of the earthquake left many schools paralyzed. Not only had they lost the school building itself, they also had to process the traumatic impact of the earthquake, which happened during school hours.

Unfortunately, there are still more than 3000 schools in the country that have not seen reconstruction works finished. However, Mexico has shown that one of the most powerful forces of recovery is social solidarity. With the help of civil society organizations, neighbors, parents, NGOs, and other fellow Mexicans, many school communities managed to find a way to ensure academic continuity, despite the often extremely precarious circumstances.

As Mexico continues repairing the damage, emergency preparedness and risk reduction are becoming crucial. Since its arrival, IsraAID Mexico has reached over 34,000 people through its relief efforts in the areas of education, psychosocial support, water, sanitation, and hygiene, and disaster risk reduction.

In the aftermath of the earthquakes, the IsraAID Mexico team provided 505 school teachers and directors with mental health support and training, installed two child-friendly spaces in the temporary refugee sites in Jojutla, installed 534 temporary classrooms, and worked with 24 affected school communities through the Healthy School Program.

One year on, IsraAID continues in the most affected areas with its Safe School program, working towards a culture of prevention, focusing on building resilience and better preparation for future crisis.

Israel Sotelo has been working for IsraAID Mexico since the first week of the response. He said: “We are not just filling proverbial potholes, with IsraAID’s work we are able to build new roads. The long way we’ve walked together to reconstruction with many schools, hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, has been inspirational. We know the road to recovery has a lot of challenges and many things still need to be done, but we are stronger knowing that, today, it is a little shorter than yesterday.” Yael Margolis, DRR program coordinator, adds: “We want to continue planting seeds of hope in the hearts of Mexicans.”

Disaster Risk Reduction
IsraAID Mexico has launched its Safe School Program, kicking off with two three-day Training of Trainers seminars for teams from 20 schools in the state of Morelos. The Safe School Program supports school communities in the worst-affected areas of Morelos through holistic, child-centered, and participatory educational tools. We foster safe and resilient learning environments by mitigating risks and reducing vulnerability towards hazards. The schools have started implementing the seven session program and have received very positive feedback from their communities.
The IsraAID team visited the implementation of the first in-school session and felt truly inspired. Professor Tomas Gonzalez said: “IsraAID is the only organization that is still helping my school in subjects that are so important and overlooked. We really love the program and it has already become a viral trend, or in the words of a millennial it became ‘a trending topic’. All the directors of the schools in my educational area want us to teach them, take part in the program, and replicate it in their schools.”

With all that the IsraAID Mexico team has learned from the Mexican communities about solidarity, strength, and optimism, we have been able to bring an adapted Safe School Program to Guatemala. Recently the IsraAID Guatemala team, with support of the Mexico IsraAID team, launched the Training of Trainers of the Safe School Program in five schools in the area of Escuintla, laying at the bottom of the Fuego Volcano that erupted on June 3rd of this year.

Director Susanna Marquez said: “We’re going to sprout the seeds, showing children how to face different situations of disaster. We have the opportunity to share this light with other people, as it has allowed me to understand risks and the ways to act upon these risks.”

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“We want to continue planting seeds of hope”