Ana with her family receiving supplies after losing everything due to a flood caused by Hurricane Ida.
It was almost Christmas. In El Salvador this is the transition from the wet and rainy season to the dry season. November had been cool and windy, as usual, but now the days were becoming sunny and the nights cool. For families in Santa Maria Ostuma, the weekend held yet another opportunity to earn the daily bread. The fields were planted, and the corn and bean crops promised a good harvest.
For Ana's family, Friday was just an ordinary day. Ana's husband Jose went to work in the fields. He works from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., and makes $5 a day. During the dry season (November to April) jobs are usually scarce, so Jose feels blessed to have work. Andrea, their daughter, went to school, and then attended Columna y Baluarte Student Centerbefore coming home.
Ana just received news that she would become a participant in Compassion's Child Survival Program (CSP), which was opening in a few weeks. Her newborn son Justin would be able to receive proper medical checkups and take part in developmental activities.
Andrea did her usual chores, keeping the one bed where they all slept clean and sweeping the dirt floor of her family's one-room home made of old aluminum sheets, cardboard and plastic.
That night, they got ready to go to bed. For Ana it was already difficult to fall asleep, but now she had to share the little mattress with her daughter Andrea and her newborn son. For now, Jose slept on the floor to give his wife, daughter and son some room. Finally, with the noise of the crickets and the calm sound of the creek just a few meters from their home, they all fell asleep.
An Unusual Interruption
In the middle of the night, the calm silence was interrupted by a very unusual sound for that time of year. Raindrops started to perform a song almost like African drums. It went from tribal drums to an orchestra of millions of drummers. The rain did not stop. It kept pounding harder and harder.
After a few hours, Ana and Jose began to worry. Something was not right. The rain was too much. Ana realized the floor was wet. It was flooded.
Immediately, Jose jumped into action knowing he had to get his family to safety. He knew the family had to leave their home at once.
Ana took her husband's sweater and thought "at least my girl and I will stay warm with this." They got a few more things and began running to the neighbor's house just a few yards up the road, on a piece of land about 15 feet higher.
Jose knocked on the aluminum sheet that represented a door. The noise of the rain was so hard that it was difficult for the people inside to hear. Finally, after knocking and yelling, they opened the door and let Ana, Jose and their children in. Hours later, after dawn, Jose told his wife, "I have to go see."
Where a House Once Stood
"When he came back, he did not say a word. I could see in his eyes, I knew. We had lost everything," Ana said.
The creek by their house had grown exponentially, and it became a highway for the mudslides that occurred upstream. A few minutes after they left their home, a river of mud washed away everything.
"I kept asking God, 'Why us and not them?' There were some drunk men sleeping on an abandoned lot, just a few meters from us, and they seemed calm," Ana said.
Hurricane Ida brought the fury of nature upon the town of Santa Maria Ostuma. According to local authorities, in just one night places like Ostuma received the amount of water that usually falls over a month during rainy season. The same mud that took away Ana's home also destroyed the bridge that served as one of the only two accesses to the town, and the only road where vehicles were able to go through.
All the way from Zacatecoluca to Ostuma, rocks the size of a trailer blocked the way. The crops were destroyed.
"God, why?" Ana continued to think.
The First to the Scene
Almost immediately, the pastor and his staff from the church connected to the Compassion-assisted child development center sprang into action. They contacted the center facilitator and transformed the church, the Compassion center and even the future CSP room into a shelter for the families.
"They were the first that came out to help. They were the only ones who came and helped," Ana recalled. "After it all happened, I asked God forgiveness because of the complaining. My husband kept telling me that we had to trust God."
They received shelter, food, clothes and blankets from the church. Even though the CSP center was not yet operational all 50 registered mothers received the same benefits that the families and children from the child development center received. For Ana and other moms the biggest blessing was still to come.
"God Answered My Prayers"
"I remember one day, they (staff at the CSP center) told me, 'Ana, we have a special blessing for you. Please come to the church. We want to give it to you'," she recalled with a mix of tears and a smile.
When Ana got to the church, they announced that thanks to help from Compassion's Complementary Interventions (CIV), her family was going to receive materials to rebuild her home and some other basic items that she lost during the flood.
"God answered my prayers," Ana said. "Not only did He give us back our home, but many other things I did not even have before."
Ana received kitchen utensils, clothes, a bed for her and her husband, and a bunk bed for their daughter and baby son.
"God gave me even more than what I lost," Ana exclaimed. After Hurricane Ida, a total of five families received the same assistance that Ana received and more than 250 Compassion-assisted children from 31 child development centers received benefits through Complementary Interventions.
Continuing to Fight Poverty
Today, now that the CSP center is open, Ana is seeing the advantage of her child's participation.
She and her baby have received medical checkups as well as additional support. They continue to receive a package of basic staples, just as the rest of the 50 mothers at the program. This vital part of the program works to fight malnutrition and the food crisis that has affected the country since 2007.
"It is important because there are a lot of poor people in the community." Ana said. "With the staples we receive, we have a relief. We all like the benefits our babies and us receive. We thank God because a lot of us are in need."
I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1
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