February 15, 2002

Project Concern International To Help In Tijuana Fire Relief Efforts

Proj ect Concern International, parent organization of the Border Health Initiative, is accepting donations for victims of last Sunday's devastating fires in Tijuana

The fires, which were whipped into action by heavy Santa Ana winds, consumed 80 houses and left an estimated 400 people homeless. Two people are reported to have died in the blazes.

photo - David Maung

Colonia Nueva Aurora, a Tijuana community where 32 homes were destroyed by fires on Sunday, February 10.

One of the hardest and poorest hits areas was Nueva Aurora, a neighborhood directly straddling the city's municipal dump. Most people here make their living by salvaging scrap metal and garbage, which is sold for recycling. Basic services such as water, electricity and paved roads are scarce and the vast majority of homes are built from used lumber, cardboard and other items found in the dump. About 150 people lost their homes in Nueva Aurora.

Sister Ines Trejo directs the Centro de Promocion de Salud Esperanza, a catholic organization that provides health, sanitation and educational services to the community. "At 4:30 in the morning I was woken by the noise and looked out my window to see a wall of flames across the canyon. We all quickly fled and were scared about possible explosions from the gas tanks," she said. "Thank God nobody died."

The center was not affected by the fire.

Marisela Mendoza and her family of five were not so lucky. Their meager home built of wood and cardboard was quickly consumed by the blaze. "We just grabbed the kids and ran. There wasn't a moment to get anything else because by the time I woke up, the fire was already in our kitchen," she said.

On the edge of the fire line, Rafael Ramirez and several of his friends hammer away at the engine of a burned out 1981 Volkswagen dasher.

They break off small pieces of aluminum and copper wiring and collect them in a plastic bag. Ramirez is having a hard time because it's his car that is being dismantled. It's also the car he's lived in for the past three months while looking for work. "This is all I had, but at least I'm alive," he said. "I guess I need to start over again."

photo - David Maung

Kids look for scrap metal to recycle amid the ruins of homes in Colonia Nueva Aurora, a Tijuana community where 32 homes were destroyed.

Project Concern International currently works with Esperanza and will be assisting with their relief work as well as with relief efforts by San Diego-based Medical Mission Sisters and Responsibility, two other organizations that provide direct health and educational services in Nueva Aurora.

"We've had a very strong presence working in Tijuana for almost 40 years now," said Dr. Blanca Lomelí, who oversees Project Concern International's binational and Tijuana programs. "This is our own backyard and at times like this we can really help out by going straight to those affected by a tragedy of this size."

Tax deductible donations can be made by calling Project Concern International at (858) 279-9690. Also contact Project Concern International at www.projectconcern.org

You can also contact Responsibility, a San Diego-based group that runs a school in Nueva Aurora, at (619) 482-3109.

Project Concern is a non-profit international health organization that saves the lives of children by preventing disease and by providing access to clean water and nutritious food. Project Concern's programs in the United States and ten countries around the world provide health care to more than 3 million people each year.

For further information on some of the relief work being done in Colonia Nueva Aurora contact David Maung at (619) 791-2607.

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