Johana, 18, from Portoviejo in Manabí is working as a volunteer to protect children as part of Plan International’s response to the Ecuador earthquake. Her village was one of the areas most affected by the devastating earthquake, which has taken the lives of over 650 people and injured over 16,600.
Donate to the Ecuador appeal“The earthquake destroyed many houses. They have been left with nothing and now more than ever they need a home. This shelter is providing refuge for many boys and girls.”
Safe spaces for children
Shelters are currently the only place for people to seek refuge and volunteers from Plan International are helping to ensure they remain a safe space for children.
Johana is the leader of a shelter currently home to 25 families. She’s been working to ensure the layout of the shelter provides equal space for everyone and that children are prioritised during aid distributions.
“We built this shelter with a lot of effort, but it does not replace people’s homes. We need to feel protected, so men take turns to guard the shelter at night. We have to make sure everyone feels safe.”
Johana makes sure children have a safe space to play so they can forget about their chaotic surroundings and she makes sure there are designated bathrooms for men and women. However, she stresses that more needs to be done.
“Little by little help is running out. The first days we had a lot of people supporting but now, nothing.”
Johana used to be a Plan International sponsored child before becoming a community volunteer. She was supposed to start university this year but due to the earthquake she is not sure when she will be able to go. She is committed to helping those in need, with the skills she has learned.
We built this shelter with a lot of effort, but it does not replace people’s homes
“Plan International has helped me learn how to express myself. In these situations, it has taught me to remember how important family is and how to protect ourselves. The organisation makes sure children have a space to play during difficult times, so they can learn and have fun even during disaster situations,” says Johana.
“I am proud to be my community’s representative… what we have been through has been very hard for all of us.”
More than 30 children in the shelter were ready to start school before the earthquake struck. According to the UN, over 280 schools have been damaged by the earthquake, leaving up to 120,000 children temporarily without education.
Plan International is setting up 60 child-friendly spaces over the coming months across different rural communities in Manabí, benefiting 30,000 boys and girls. These safe spaces will also provide support and education for parents where they can learn about self-esteem, resilience, nutrition and child protection.
Plan International is appealing for funds for its humanitarian response to support the earthquake-affected communities in Ecuador. The funds raised will be used for food assistance, child protection and education among other measures.