On February 27, a massive 8.8 earthquake—and ensuing tsunami—hit Chile. Although the epicenter was out at sea, 150 KM from the town of Concepcion, the strong shocks were felt throughout the entire country and many areas of the Southern Cone. The most affected areas are Valparaiso, Santiago, O’Higgins, Maule, Biobio and La Araucania, where over 80% of the entire population resides. This catastrophic event affcted over 2 million Chileans. It destroyed over 500,000 homes and left 497 people dead.

Operation USA has focused our recovery efforts in two areas:

COLIUMO LIBRARY: Tome, Biobio, Chile

Coliumo is transitional neighborhood located in Tome, a small coastal town in the region of Biobio. Following the earthquake and tsunami, Coliumo suffered radical changes. Over 200 houses were completely destroyed. After losing their homes many families sought refuge in the nearby hills were they remained for many weeks. They lived in tents while they waited for transitional houses to be built.

Operation USA has partnered with “Un Techo Para Chile,” a Chilean volunteer-based non-profit that specializes in the construction of transitional homes in post-disaster situations. In March “Techo” began a reconstruction project in the region, building houses and community buildings that were destroyed by the seismic shocks. Operation USA, working with “Techo,” is rebuilding the library in Coliumo, one of the neighborhoods identified as badly affected by the earthquake.

The necessity of this library is based on the quantity of children in the community and the lack of space they have for concentrating and studying inside the transitional home. This project offers a space for concentration that is vital for their education. Occupying a space of 36m, the library will contain three rooms, all adequately furnished. Donation for books will be made by Chilean Enterprises.

A BOAT FOR CHILE/RETURN TO SEA: Fishing/Livelihood Project, Araucania, Chile

Chile’s Fifth through Ninth regions experienced most of the destruction from the earthquake, especially along their coastline towns. These rural towns’ main tools for economic growth, such as the ports, boats and fishing equipment, were completely destroyed by the tsunami that followed the massive quake. Residents of these areas have not only lost their livelihoods which consisted mainly on traditional and artisan fishing but now find themselves in dire need of proper sanitation, nutrition, shelter and healthcare.

Operation USA has joined the campaign “A Boat for Chile,” a public-private partnership developed in cooperation with the Chilean government program: “Return to Sea.” The aim of campaign is to provide local fisherman with the necessary tools to resume their economic activities. Operation USA will be working in the 9th Region in an area called Araucania. The project will consist of repairing boats and engines for the fishermen of these small communities.

Operation USA has a history of work in the rehabilitation of rural fishing communities. After the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Operation USA provided livelihood grants, which included fishing boats and equipment to residents of Galle and Kalladi, two fishing communities located on the west and east coast of Sri Lanka respectively. This model proved to be very successful in restoring the economic activity of the village.

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