Rebuilding After the Earthquake: A True Community Effort

Date Publish: 
Chile / America

"We are very proud of this work we are doing on behalf of the
community." – Fernando Villarreal, Chilean Army Lieutenant in
charge of army group working on the construction of homes in the
community of Coronel in the Bio Bio Region.

Stories abound on the coming together of communities working to
rebuild the most affected areas after the devastating earthquake of
27 February.

Victims of the earthquake, members of the community, volunteers
from the public at large and the military are working shoulder to
shoulder in the reconstruction efforts.

IOM is working with the Government of Chile, local authorities
and NGOs in the construction of more than 1,000 temporary homes in
the Maule and Bio Bio regions of southern Chile, with funding from
the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

"The hard work and dedication of the Chilean Army from the very
first hours after the earthquake is highly commendable and has been
an incentive for the affected families to participate in the
rebuilding efforts.  The military played a key role in the
delivery of humanitarian assistance in the hardest hit areas, and
they are continuing that commitment by participating in the actual
building of the temporary homes," explains Viviana Mellado, Head of
the IOM Mission in Chile.

The community of Coronel in the Santa Elena Sector of the Bio
Bio Region is a perfect example of community spirit and
solidarity.  So far, 150 temporary homes have been built by
the beneficiaries and a group of more than 80 military staff who
have worked tirelessly the past few weeks in the

The neighbors of this small community have told IOM: "Military
support has been vital.  We are so grateful for their help in
laying the foundation so that we can take over and finish the

Twenty-six-year-old Coronel Fernando Villarreal is in charge of
coordinating the work of the soldiers.  "Our collaboration in
this construction project had led to a better understanding of the
work that we do and how important the army can be, not just to
defend the country in battle, but to protect our homeland and
fellow citizens in times of crisis.  We are proud to be
providing this support to the community," says Villarreal.

Although this is the first time that he and his men are carrying
out this type of work, Villarreal says it has taught them just how
much can be achieved when the military is able to work with a
community and towards the same goal.

He is aware that this is part of his job, but the sincere thanks
he receives everyday from everyone in the community have kept him
motivated and has strengthened his leadership role.

"The residents see us as heroes.  People need to feel
secure and supported.  But we have families also, and being
far away from them has been a big sacrifice for us.  I have
been personally impacted by the needs in this community.  We
have worked many long hours, now we are almost at the finish line
and soon people can move in to their new homes," adds

Community Appreciation

The neighbours hail the work done by the military: "The military
has provided invaluable support.  We came together
spontaneously and got to work."

The women have taken charge of cutting wood, ordering nails, and
classifying the construction materials, amongst other things. 
The unemployed men work all day alongside the military, and those
who have jobs join the ranks after returning from their jobs.

According to the Government of Chile, some 160,000 homes (37 per
cent of them in the Bío Bío Region) were damaged
beyond repair.  Official estimates place the number of persons
in need of emergency shelter support at 100,000.

IOM developed the project with an emphasis on local labour and
local building materials to help the local economy which was also
affected by the earthquake.

Currently, there is construction underway in Portezuelo, Parral,
Cabrero and Quirihue where some 120 soldiers and another 200
persons are putting the house panels and then moving the structures
to the designated areas.  Some 100 of these workers are

Families Working Together

Working side by side, day after day has allowed for deep
friendship to blossom and to an untold number of acts of solidarity
amongst the victims of the earthquake.

Lieutenant Villarrreal says,  "This work has helped us
understand what these people have gone through.  The families
feel like they have support and that someone is here caring for
them.  To show their appreciation, the 150 families put
together their meager resources and prepared a generous banquet for
us.  That was the best thank you we could have possibly

For more information please contact:

Viviana Mellado

IOM Chile

Tel: +56.2. 274.6713

Email: "">

© IOM Chile 2010