Friday, August 17, 2007

Mother Nature Pays A Visit

Being from the midwest, I'm no stranger to the forces of Mother Nature.

Thankfully, we weren't physically shaken by the devastating earthquake in neighboring Peru, however our communications coordinator, Andres, frantically tried to reach his father via cell phone in Lima. Several hours later we learned that his father was safe and the weight of not knowing was lifted for Andres.

Mother Nature, however, paid another call today. Just shortly after returning from the rural hillsides of Quito, we arrived for a break at a local community center. Clouds shielded us from the intense, but cool, rays of the sun for most of the morning. Suddenly, the skies opened up and rain began to fall. Not in a gentle, picturesque way, but in a deafening roar as the raindrops and then hail pounded the metal roof over our heads.

The center was full of parents and children who were lined up outside waiting to receive school supplies. As the rain went from a trickle to a torrent, our staff quickly moved them under a small tent. Conversations soon stopped because you could no longer hear the person sitting next to you. Looking out the window, the dirt road we just drove down suddenly became a muddy river. We noticed a steady stream of water entering the third floor where we were. Thinking we were dry from the storm so far up, I quickly discovered that there was a road at third floor level on the opposite side of the center. As water poured in from the road, we scrambled to get our cameras off the floor before they got wet, then realized that along another wall sat dozens of boxes of school supplies. We immediately moved them so they wouldn't be ruined and the children wouldn't have to go without them.

As the storm pounded down on us, all I could think about were the familes on the hillside we just visited. They had little or no protection from the cold wind, rain and hail. How does a mother keep her children dry under a rusty tin roof and walls made of loosely fastened scrap wood? I could only picture them huddled together in a corner, trying to stay dry and wait the storm out.

Twenty minutes later the storm passed and daily activites resumed as if nothing ever happened. Hopefully, the families on the hillside braved the storm without troubles. If they did, luck was definitely on their side. This time.

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