Bit by bit, life resumes its course in Mocoa

MISSION BRIEF January—March 2018


Extract of Report from the Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Presentation, Mocoa presented to DSI. (Sandra Toussaint, DSI)

On 23rd March 2017, the city of Mocoa, Colombia where our Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Presentation have several missions, lived through the greatest tragedy in its history. Many districts were submerged under massive landslides con- taining huge boulders and rocks owing to con- sistent and heavy rainfall over several days. It had been 60 years since the inhabitants of Mocoa ex- perienced natural disasters of such magnitude. Seventeen (17) districs were affected, five of which were almost totally wiped out.

The number of recorded deaths were at about 320 with over 400 injured and approximately 600 unaccounted for. This was a time of great pain and disorientation for the inhabitants whose family, friends and neighbours could not be accounted for and who had lost their homes and other possessions. Such massive landslides have been described as a direct result of deforestation, and poor land mismanagement policies in the region.

Part of the group of sisters sent to reinforce Mocoa. From left to right: Soledad Reina, Dora Cárdenas, Yanet Gaona,

Fannery Madrigal, Carmen Ester Pardo, Liznarda Casanova (resident of Mocoa village), Carmenza Avellaneda, Pastora Marín.

The Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Presentation, established in Colombia since 1873 immediately sent 10 of their sisters to aid and support affected families. Thanks to the generosity of Dominican Sisters and Laity worldwide, the Sis- ters of the Presentation in Mocoa (Sisters Reyna Elvira Itzep, Carmen Ester Pardo et María de los Ángeles López) began to search of families with whom they were in contact before the disaster, in an effort to know their needs provide immediate, concrete and effective assistance and a concrete assessment of the needs of the people describing the precariousness of the situation. Their focus was to provide more than relief as a first re- sponse. They invited the people to present long- term projects based upon their situation after the disaster. From August 15 to 18, 2017, driven by the desire to develop and support productive pro-jects intended to restore the long-term earning capacity to a group of identified inhabitants, the sisters received the first nine (9) projects namely, Graphic Arts (1), Food and catering (5), Con- struction (1), Hairdressing (1), Agriculture (1). The first eight (8) projects were presented by 8 families which facilitated the support of 13 adults and 11 children. The ninth project was an agri- cultural grouping of 4 families, 8 adults and 5 chil- dren. 37 people were thus able to return to a nor- mal life, thanks to the financing of these 9 first projects.

Psychosocial Support

On October 8, 2017, six months after the disaster, the sisters invited families to a day of psycho- social support involving a liturgical celebration, a sharing of experiences of the disaster and a presentation on funded projects and the training program. Each family or family group was able to introduce themselves, to talk about their activity and to report on the difficulties that they had en- countered in its development and roll-out. The meeting ended with a shared meal.

Ongoing Projects

Nine (9) other projects are under study. Con- scious that the reconstruction of the economic and social fabric of the community cannot be lim- ited to the financing of projects but must be ac- companied by strategic management support of the entrepreneurs, the Sisters took a further step in establishing training sessions for the first Pro- ject Leaders led by an accountant on January 30 and 31, 2018. The topics covered during this training were financial language, how to keep ac- counts, entrepreneurship and management.


To date, the amount paid to families amounts to 39 million pesos (€10,735.00) and 35 million Pe- sos (€9,610) Is yet to be paid for the implementation of the agricultur- al project.

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