There are tragedies that make us change the way we help. The deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador on April 16, 2016, shook not only the earth, but also the way citizens support each other. Since then, many people have cooperated with those affected — and distance hasn't been a hurdle.
Loja, which lies on the border with Peru, on the opposite side of the country from the area affected by the tremor, is an example of this. In this small city, on July 9 and 10, a group of 10 theatre companies came together to make the public laugh and forget about reality for a couple of hours. The objective of the initiative, called “7.8 Theatre for Life: Short Works, Big Sensations”, was to fund-raise for the victims of the earthquake.
Erika Erike, one of the theatre festival's promoters, discussed the details with Global Voices:
Aproximadamente 30 personas, entre actores y directores de diferentes colectivos, colaboraron generosamente con sus presentaciones. Tuvimos en los dos días del evento la asistencia de aproximadamente 450 personas, entre ellos niños, quienes tenían la entrada libre.
Approximately 30 people, including actors and directors from different collectives, collaborated generously with their presentations. Over the two-day festival we had about 450 attendees, among them children who were able to enter for free.
Con mucha alegría recibimos a un gran grupo de niños de un orfanato de la ciudad, quienes por primera vez tuvieron la oportunidad de asistir al teatro. Así también pudimos contribuir a que estos niños accedan al teatro y disfruten el arte, haciéndolos parte y fin de este proyecto.
We were also very happy to host a large group of children from an orphanage in the city, who for the first time had the opportunity to watch a play. So, we were able to make it possible for these children to go to the theatre and enjoy art, involving them and making them the objective of this project.
Erike said the money raised from the festival and from some of the Loja Cultural Network‘s other activities was put towards a trip that the group made to Manabí province from September 8 to September 12 to organize artistic activities for earthquake victims to help them deal with their emotional distress. The program included music, painting, theatre, puppetry, and writing. They also planned to paint a mural to highlight the strength and hope of Manabí:
El dinero servirá para financiar el traslado de los voluntarios y los materiales necesarios para el desarrollo de lo planeado. Adicionalmente se está realizando una colecta de libros infantiles para donar a los niños de los sitios afectados.
The money will go towards financing the journey of volunteers with the necessary materials to carry out these activities. Also, a collection of children's books is being put together as a donation for the children in the affected areas.
Erika confessed that she loves theatre and that for her and other organizers, it was a very meaningful experience to witness the magic of the stage as a means of getting people involved in solidarity:
Todos los que asistieron a “7.8 Teatro por la vida: obras cortas, grandes sensaciones”, sintieron entre risas un momento agradable, y también entendieron la reflexión y compasión. Las personas se conmovieron y compartieron con nosotros los deseos de ayudar a quienes aún necesitan apoyo para empezar una vida luego del terremoto que les arrebató tanto.
Everyone who attended “7.8 Theatre For Life: Short Works, Big Sensations” enjoyed themselves, laughing, but they also understood the reflection and compassion. People were moved and shared their desire with us to help those who still need support to start their lives again after the earthquake took so much from them.
Ecuadorians have found a way to heal from the damage caused by the strongest earthquake in the country's history: art, laughter, and solidarity.