Post-Quake Aid in El Salvador Goes Beyond Housing

Caritas Still Working a Year After Catastrophes

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, JAN. 20, 2002 ( A year after a series of quakes devastated El Salvador, Caritas has provided 1,281 houses for poor families, and a similar number now under construction.

Ever since the major quakes struck on Jan. 13, 2001, and Feb. 13, El Salvador´s bishops´ conference designated Caritas to coordinate the aid for the thousands of quake victims.

The national parochial network also benefited from the help of Caritas International, which immediately offered food, medicines, temporal housing, care and psychological and spiritual support to 129,986 affected families.

Since May, Caritas has managed an «Integral Plan of Reconstruction for Those Affected by the Earthquakes,» which provides housing and assistance to 8,415 families over a three-year period. During the first year of the project, 2,862 families, in 12 of the 14 country´s departments, stand to benefit.

The homes, built through cooperation, cover an area of 42 square meters and are valued at $2,043.

In addition to housing, the plan includes projects for human development and health; 8,000 heads of families have already benefited from training in these areas.

«For Caritas, the mere construction of homes is not the solution to the poverty in which a good percentage of the Salvadoran population lives; for this reason, it emphasizes the formation of leaders who will promote community organization,» a statement explains.

«Housing is a means,» said Gilberto Gallegos, the director of Caritas-El Salvador. «What is of greatest interest to us, beginning from this means, is to construct communities.»

Gallegos believes that one of the serious obstacles to attain the development of the poorest peoples «is the lack of communal organization.»

«Caritas makes every effort to facilitate community organization so that the people, discovering the causes of the precariousness of life, recognize their potential as persons,» and thus have the chance to propose better options for their life, he said.

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