By Gerard Gough

MISSIO’s Diocesan Director for Galloway Diocese, Fr Martin Chambers, has assured the people of Ecuador that Scots will endeavour to support them spiritually and financially after an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter Scale struck the country’s Pacific coast on Saturday April 16.

At least 413 people are thought to have died and more than 2500 people are said to have been injured, while the cost of rebuilding in the country—most notably in the towns of Pedernales and Portoviejo, close to the epicentre of the quake—is likely to be billions of dollars. The dead include 33-year-old Derry woman, Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, a nun with the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother who taught 400 children in the Colegio Sagrada Familia School.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has been to the worst-affected region and described the natural disaster as the ‘worst tragedy to hit Ecuador in the past seven decades.’ Western Ecuador was then hit by a number of strong aftershocks on Monday April 18, the largest of which measured magnitude 5.1.

Speaking after the quake struck, Fr Chambers—who spent five years as a missionary priest (above) in Nueva Prosperina, Guayaquil, in the south west of the country—assured the Ecuadorean people that prayers were being offered for them.

“After the news of the earthquake that has affected Ecuador, we are united in prayer,” Fr Chambers said. “Ecuador and Scotland are friends, united in prayer and in hope.”

Fr Chambers went on to describe the situation in his missionary diocese and explained how one of his former parishioners is embarking upon his own personal mission to help those in need.

“In Guayaquil one man died when a flyover collapsed in the centre of the city,” Fr Chambers. “Roads throughout the country are cut off especially in the affected area. In Nueva Prosperina, there is no electricity, water has been cut off, shops are closed and there is restriction on movement. People need food, water and clothing.

“During my time in the country, there was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake and although the epicentre of that was some 300km north, in Guayaquil, buildings shook quite badly. It felt like the whole house was in a washing machine when it happened, it was shaking violently, with books flying off bookshelves, crockery smashing and such like.

“One of my former parishioners, Tito Misionero, who is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met, told me an inspiring story. In the midst of tragedy, he and some friends are travelling to the affected by the earthquake to visit orphanages and offer support and comfort for the children who are living through fear. He wants to give them strategies to overcome the pain. And to do this he will have to take leave from his job and that will cost him money.

Closer to home, a group of pupils formerly of St Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock, led by Heather O’Rourke—who have twice been to Nueva Prosperina—have set up a Justgiving page to raise money for the people have been affected by the earthquake, which has already raised in excess of £1000.

“Adela, the headteacher of the Sagrada Familia School in Guayaquil, has headed north to the affected area to see how we—in Scotland—can get financial help direct to those who need it most,” Fr Chambers said. “The Justgiving page set up by Heather and former pupils of St Joseph’s Academy, Kilmarnock, will be a great help in that regard. It has raised more than £1000 already, which is fantastic.”

—To donate to the Justgiving page visit: https://www.justgiving.com/Heather-O-Rourke

—Anyone wishing to donate money to assist the people of Ecuador via Missio Scotland can do so via phone, e-mail, our Facebook or website

—gerard@missio.scot