“Flooding…houses collapsed…community committee activated….evacuation…meeting point…shelter!”
On the hot pavement in the center of Fenadesal Sur, children lined up for a game of hopscotch, only this one had a twist: each time they paused to jump forward, they called out the next step in a journey from disaster to safety.
If their legs wobbled a little on the one-footed hops, their voices didn’t: the children knew the sequence by heart. In fact, some of them had lived it. When the rains of November 2009 swelled the river Acelhuate, more than 100 houses in this community were damaged, and 30 were destroyed. Many of these children lost their homes and are now living in a nearby shelter.
What they didn’t lose in Fenadesal was lives, and that, people seemed to agree, was thanks to the preparedness efforts of a few hard-working community members, trained and equipped by Oxfam and its partners.
When the children were done with their game they gathered around to talk. I explained that I had never lived through a disaster and asked what kind of advice they had for people like me. There was urgency in their voices as they told me not to be afraid and to stay by my mother’s side. One girl had another thought – that in emergencies we need each other.
“Knock on the doors of your neighbors,” she said, “and get away with them as fast as you can.”