Twitter and Facebook are filled with posts from people looking for ways to volunteer in the aftermath of the 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile on Saturday. It was through social media that I learned about the relief efforts being coordinated by the University of Chile's student federation, the FECh. Yesterday afternoon, I decided to head over to their headquarters at Periodista Jose Carrasco Tapia 9 (off Vicuna Mackenna near Metro Baquedano). The area was swarming with young people dropping off donations, loading trucks and organizing themselves into work teams. After completing a brief registration, I joined one of the teams, and we set off for Rotonda Quilin in Penalolen.
Once there, we split up into smaller groups, some of which carried boxes into nearby neighborhoods and went door-to-door collecting non-perishable food, cleaning and hygiene supplies, clothing and blankets for the residents of towns hit particularly hard by the quake. Unfortunately, these groups ran into a bit of difficulty because apparently there have been cases of scam artists going door-to-door collecting money for "earthquake victims." Even so, the FECh groups managed to bring back quite a haul.
I was assigned to a group that set up at the entrance of a Lider supermarket. We informed the people walking in that we were collecting supplies for earthquake victims and collected their donations as they walked out. Some people's generosity was extremely touching. A guy in a cast hobbled up to us with a full shopping basket and proceeded to hand over everything he'd bought. One woman donated about half of the contents of her full cart, while another went home and returned with two giant bags of clothing. And a little girl toddled over and silently handed over her juice boxes.
I know Lider has not received very positive treatment on this blog in the past, but I have to say that the manager on duty was wonderful to us. Volunteers have been kicked out of other supermarkets, but this guy even made an announcement letting customers know what we were collecting. Points for the Rotonda Quilin Lider.
If you're looking for ways to help in Santiago and are relatively close to student age, the FECh is a great option. They don't require you to be a University of Chile student; yesterday, I met a lot of volunteers who were current or former students of other universities and institutes. The sign-up process is quick, and you get to work immediately. If you're not too keen on standing at the entrance of a Lider, there are other activities in which you can participate. Today, for example, I've been slated for some kind of mystery activity involving bikes and shovels. If you want more specific information, call up the FECh at (02) 977-1932 or visit them at the address given above. If you choose to do the latter, you can bring a donation to drop off.
If you're looking for more ways to help, check out Clare, Emily and Kyle's posts on how to get involved. Radio Cooperativa has a nifty little sidebar in which you can learn about relief efforts and the state of different services (airports, transportation, commerce, etc.).
Also, Colegio San Ignacio El Bosque (Pocuro 2801, Providencia) is collecting supplies for earthquake victims.