, Jan. 17, 2001 — On Saturday, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit near El Salvador’s capital city of San Salvador, killing more than 380 people, injuring more than 700 and leaving more than 1,000 missing. Highways and bridges have been damaged, as well as houses, hospitals and schools. Francisco Flores, president of the Republic of El Salvador, has requested international aid to help with reconstruction. “El Salvador only has resources to deal with the initial emergency stages,” he said.
By Sunday, the community affairs group at Microsoft had received several inquiries from employees about what they could do to help.
“The concern for the welfare of people in need is pervasive throughout Microsoft,” said Bruce Brooks, director of Microsoft Community Affairs. “People wanted to know, ‘What can we do to help?'”
To assist the aid effort in El Salvador, Microsoft Community Affairs has committed $30,000 to World Vision, an international humanitarian organization based in Federal Way, Wash. The cash donation will go toward the purchase, transportation and distribution of relief supplies, including clean drinking water, water purification equipment, medical supplies, food and material for temporary shelter. Near the border of Guatemala, World Vision employees found a community lacking fresh water and other essential supplies — more than 150 people were sick with respiratory and stomach problems.
“Community programs that take time to plan and implement are wonderful, but in a disaster situation people’s most basic needs have to be addressed immediately: shelter, clean water, food,” Brooks said. “That’s what this donation is all about; helping people with basic necessities.”
Approximately 1,000 temporary shelters will be provided for homeless earthquake victims in Tacuba and San Julian, two other towns where hundreds of homes were destroyed by Saturday’s quake. World Vision, which has been working in El Salvador since 1975, is also providing beans, corn, rice, milk and cooking oil to families affected by the quake.
Relief experts note that following the first month of emergency response efforts, the long-term rebuilding of homes and lives will move forward over the next 18 months. In the aftermath of such a disaster, other important areas of concern, such as education, are often put on hold due to a lack of resources. Programs like “A Class Act,” a joint project in which Microsoft works closely with the Greater Houston Area Red Cross and the Houston Independent School District, help the youth in these disaster-torn areas continue their education by providing school supplies for children in foreign countries ravaged by war or natural disasters — including El Salvador.
Students from Houston-area elementary and middle schools gather and fill the “school chests” with typical school supplies such as pencils, rulers, chalk, erasers, crayons, paper, and even soccer balls and jump ropes, and ship these cartons around the world. The Red Cross School Chest program has existed for more than 80 years, and this year’s program is being kicked off today at Lee High School, a Houston magnet school for international studies.
Last year, more than 60 Red Cross school chests were collected, providing education supplies to needy children overseas. The goal for this year’s collection is 200 chests. Countries requesting boxes from the Red Cross include Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda, Cambodia, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela, Yugoslavia (Serbia), Albania, Romania, and Armenia.