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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

While abroad, Brandeisian finds hope amid Chilean disaster

Published: March 12, 2010
Section: Features

As she slept in her hotel room on the last night of her study abroad orientation in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, Chile on Feb. 28, Quinn Lockwood ’11 felt the shocks of one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded.

“We certainly felt the shaking. [It was] very scary, and the hotel sustained some damage, but compared to many other areas of the country and even other areas of the same city, we were very fortunate,” Lockwood wrote of the 8.8 Richter scale quake in an e-mail to The Hoot.

The next day, amid aftershocks (some of which reached 6.0 on the Richter scale), Lockwood moved into her host family’s home.

“This is my second week living with my Chilean family,” Lockwood wrote of the experience. “Everyone was stressed and worried, naturally, but they were unbelievably kind and welcoming, even immediately after the disaster,” Lockwood wrote.

Despite the losses and fear residents and students were facing, the program has continued on as scheduled.

Lockwood’s host family’s home was not severely damaged but they did suffer a loss of electricity and water for close to a week after the earthquake. Her host family has not personally suffered a loss of life resulting from the earthquake, but many of their extended family in the town of Concepcion, the earthquake’s epicenter, have lost close friends and personal businesses as a result of the catastrophe.

Lockwood, who is in Chile as part of an SIT study abroad program which focuses on cultural identity, social justice and community development, plans to spend today with members of her SIT study abroad program helping to clear debris from Valparaiso.

The communication lines in Chile are slowly recovering from the events and Lockwood feels she has been privileged in her ability to make international calls and get on the Internet, but she also acknowledged that it’s still very hard for other people to communicate with the rest of the world.

“I can only speak to my own experience, which has been that I was able to use the Internet immediately after the quake but not for several days after. I was also able to make an international call from a call center two days after the earthquake. However, I think communication is still very difficult in the most severely affected areas, particularly Concepcion,” she wrote.

Despite the criticism certain relief organizations have recently faced, Lockwood feels that students and their families wishing to donate to Chile should donate to the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, both of which had a strong presence in Chile before the earthquake.

Overall, experiencing this natural disaster while studying abroad has given Lockwood hope and optimism for the future.

“The single most amazing thing I have witnessed since the earthquake is the support and kindness that the people I have encountered have shown me, as well as each other,” she wrote. “Many people, including my host-mom and I, spent the day after the earthquake traveling around, checking on friends and neighbors, bringing food, water and comfort. Though it might sound cheesy, witnessing so much goodness after such a tragedy has given me a little more hope for the future of the human race.”