First responders: Cuenca expats commit hearts and souls to earthquake recovery

Apr 23, 2017 | 0 comments

Text and photos by John Keeble

Lindsay Burton, owner of San Sebas café in Cuenca, is still paying off the debt she incurred when she burned out the engine of her car getting supplies to people around Canoa – and she is still deeply involved in the disaster relief work in and around the village.

Cuenca volunteers Lindsay Burton and boyfriend Claudio Hollenstein.

On the day of the earthquake anniversary, she was visiting Proyecto Saman friends and colleagues, remembering the past year and assessing what had been achieved.

“The majority of families are out of our camp,” she said. “In town, the rubble has been cleared. There is a feeling of new life.

“I can feel the change from people being in a dark, mourning place. There is a feeling of rejuvenation. People want to make it a better place.”

Her boyfriend Claudio Hollenstein, owner of Hostal Yakumama in Cuenca, has worked with her. He brought in more than $14,000 in donations from his home country, Switzerland. Now Lindsay and Claudio plan to make their future in the Canoa area. They have bought land for a home and business.

“I was celebrating my thirty-first birthday on the coast at the time of the earthquake,” said Lindsay.

Two weeks later, the Proyecto Saman disaster relief effort was under way with supplies brought into Canoa. While some volunteers were finding out what the people in Canoa needed, others were trying to get food and water to surrounding areas that had received no help.

“We took a lot in my car,” said Lindsay. But sometimes they had to carry the food and water into damaged areas on foot or with the use of donkeys. It was this desperate effort to get through with supplies that burned out Lindsay’s car engine.

Their friend Eddie Salazar, a professional surfer, offered land for the refugee camp and organized two 40-foot containers of tents and food to be sent from Florida.

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