Ecuadorians in Barbados appeal for aid following deadly earthquake

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday April 19, 2016 – Classes were cancelled yesterday for 50 Ecuadorian students studying at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus and counsellors brought in to help them cope with the psychological effects of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck their country on Saturday night.

“For something like this to happen at a time like this, you can understand how devastating it is for them,” said Sonia Johnson, coordinator of the English as a Second Language programme.

The Ecuadorians – all teachers – are the first cohort of students from that country to pursue the seven-month programme coordinated by UWI, Cave Hill. Others have been placed in Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Several students have not heard from their families as yet, so you could understand their anguish. We had a counselling session . . . which was addressed by the principal with some counsellors from the Office of Student Services . . . The students have been planning what kind of response they can make to this tragedy in Ecuador,” Johnson said.

The earthquake which struck the South American nation’s Pacific Coast killed at least 413 people, and left more than 2,500 injured – a disaster that President Rafael Correa said is the biggest tragedy to hit Ecuador in decades.

Efforts are continuing to find survivors.

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Some of the Ecuadorians at UWI have still not been able to reach their families and for those who have, the connection has been poor.

“It’s a very difficult situation for me being so far from home and trying to be strong to support my family, just from my heart, because I can’t do anything being so far from there,”’ said Eduardo Zamora, a resident of Portoviejo, one of the worst-hit areas.

“It is very difficult for me just to stay here and receive bad news and feel powerless, not being able to help physically,” said another student, Henry Guatemal, one of the group’s spokespersons.

“But it’s not the moment to start complaining about what is happening. We have to act. The point that we are not in the country doesn’t mean that we cannot help.”

A church service has been planned for tomorrow, the same day the students, with the support of the university, will begin collecting donated relief supplies.

A bank account will also be opened and an aid concert held to help raise funds.

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