The Journey Continued…
Juan Beltran, a civil engineer in the Land Development Group, has recently embarked on a journey on the other side of the world with The Invictus Initiative (www.theinvictus.org). Continue to follow his journey below…
Yesterday we provided blankets to the leader of another community camp. He distributed them to the elders to keep the community warm at night. We also traveled to the mountain villages.
The first village was very welcoming and, when we asked what kind of help they needed, informed us that they have been very fortunate and the village remains sustainable. The leader told us that another village, however, is very poor and could use our help. I was encouraged to see this village lead us in the direction of a less fortunate community that desperately needed assistance.
Today we met with three young adults, two brothers and a sister, all under the age of 25. They shared the experience of losing their parents in the earthquake. The pain and tragedy they all felt showed through one of the brothers as he paused and started to cry. I’m not great with words and can’t express it all well, but their story was quite
These stories have been hard to hear. I can’t imagine losing my parents or living through all that these people have overcome. I have been so lucky in life to have all that I do and be surrounded by
so many loved ones.
Today we continued to distribute blankets to different camps and identified other projects that we can work on, including building lifted beds and making mittens to sell. The beds are made by locals and given to people within the camps. Some of the women from the villages make the mittens but, only receive 40 cents per pair. If we help them create a business model and team them up with the right vendors, the women could be making much more.
On breaks, the group played soccer with a little girl whose ball was torn and deflated. Before almost every kick, she would punch out the dents of the ball from inside out to make it round again. Yesterday, one of the team members decided to buy her a new ball and give it to her. Her face lit up with joy, and before we left they played with the ball together, along with some of her friends.
We have also been checking with the elders who have our blankets to see how they like them. They are all very thankful and said they are kept warm at night now.
In one of the new tent communities we visited, we encountered a family who allowed us to check out their home. The first and second floors were alright, however, the third through fifth floors were structurally unstable. This home remains standing for now, however, it could fall at any moment with an aftershock or small earthquake. This seems to be an issue with most houses we enter.
Unfortunately, it seems a lot of money, food, and relief items are not being distributed correctly. During the big emergency aid efforts, many Non-Government Organizations traveled to quite a few of the same areas just to reach their quotas. We are visiting the mountain communities again today because that region wasn’t helped very much or at all. They were never provided tents, water filters, or beds. Many relief organizations seem to be more concerned about their numbers and statistics than actually providing good sustainable help. It’s frustrating seeing it play out here.
Yesterday, we revisited two community camps in the city to begin working on a few of the projects we identified. Every time we come back, the villagers get happier and happier. The first camp has tin roofs and some tin walls with tarp, so we raised the beds and fixed the condensation problem on the roofs because the blankets were getting wet.
The other community has a temporary school made from bamboo. The medical team taught a hand washing class today for the kids, and the business team worked with the women to implement a business model to make more money from the wool mittens they knit. I played a lot with the kids. We pretended that I was a monster trying to get them. They laughed so much!
Today it’s Christmas Eve! We are having tea tonight with the camp we are helping with the beds. They have invited our team to spend the night in their camp and I am so excited! Christmas morning will be quite different tomorrow. I can’t wait to experience a night in the tent communities to see what they must deal with every day.
We have made extraordinary progress developing incredible relationships with many camps. I’ve seen so much trust and friendship everywhere. We installed water filters, handed out emergency blankets, and implemented a raised bed project using emergency blankets as part of the design.
The villages and Invictus group worked together to get a camp two 500-liter water storage tanks.
The health team gave classes in hand and oral hygiene as well as women’s health.
The business team implemented a pilot startup business with women in the tent communities. Twenty-three women will be making gloves, hats, socks, and scarves out of wool to sell. The Invictus Initiative will make the initial investment for the wool. The intent is for them to sell it locally but we will also take some with us back to the University of Denver, Colorado School of Mines, and Colorado State University to sell to students. All profits will be going directly to the women.
The most important part of this trip is the relationships we made. My favorite parts have been playing games with all the kids.
Right now we are all heading to the mountains to trek and reflect on everything we have accomplished. Eleven of us will be leaving after the trek. Everyone else will be here four more days to continue what we started.