Support in the Face of Disaster

By Gonzalo Alaiza, Country Director, Pro Mujer Bolivia

On Saturday, February 26th, 2011, sudden seismic activity triggered a “mega-mudslide” that devastated more than 345 acres in the eastern part of Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. While no casualties were reported, more than 6,000 people were affected and approximately 1,700 homes and buildings were damaged or destroyed.  

A view of the destruction from the mudslide that hit La Paz, Bolivia

In response to the crisis, we mobilized our staff and assembled care packages consisting of portable stoves, pots and pans, thermoses and gas canisters, to provide our clients who lost their homes and belongings.   

Staff gather to strategize for the day's work ahead.

Pro Mujer health educators, credit officers and other staff members traveled to the area and began the task of searching for clients in need. Our health team provided medical attention such as check-ups, prenatal care and blood pressure tests to our clients and their children while our credit officers and staff distributed the packages.   

Upon receiving the packages, some clients expressed concern as to how they and their communal associations would repay their loans but we assured them that we were not there to talk about their loans. Instead we reminded them that we are a women’s development organization interested in their well-being and development, and not exclusively focused on credit.

A Pro Mujer staffer provides emotional support to a client.

The day was long and by the end of it, we were all physically and emotionally spent. The words of gratitude from our clients and the smiles on their faces were the best motivators that day. Despite the fact that we did our best that day to help as many clients and their families as possible, it was obvious that our work was far from finished. Rather, it is only beginning, as so much more remains to be done.

With communal association names like, Siempre Unidas (Always United), Las Guerreras (Female Warriors) and Esperanza (Hope), we know that they will live up to their names and overcome this tragic event. We are committed to making sure that they do.