It was a wide-ranging disaster-relief mission that quickly became personal for a group of Vancouver Islanders.
Members of a church near Campbell River are asking for donations to support victims of an earthquake that hit southern Mexico last year, including a boy with a rare skin condition.
Members of the Living Waters Fellowship Church first met Paquito in March, when they travelled to the southern state of Chiapas. The group was helping a Chiapas-based church with relief efforts following an 8.2-magnitude earthquake that hit the region in Sept. 2017.
“We teamed up with them,” said Doug Wynd, a member of the Living Waters congregation, which is based in Black Creek. “We went around handing out food hampers, praying with people.”
During the trip, a local pastor introduced them to a family in a poverty-stricken area ravaged by the earthquake, between the city of Tonalá and the coastal village of Paredón, Wynd said.
|An 8.1-magnitude earthquake hit southern Mexico in Sept. 2017. A church in Black Creek is raising funds for relief in the area, including for a family living near the city of Tonalá, shown here. Image from Google Maps|
“It definitely wasn’t a tourist area,” he said. “Nobody has any money to be able to repair their houses.”
The boy’s parents explained that he suffered from a condition known as epidermolysis bullosa, Wynd said. The disease, which results in painful blistering of skin and mucous membranes, had already killed his brother.
Children infected by the disease are sometimes called “butterfly children,” a reference to the fragility of their skin.
“Heat, cold, if somebody touches him, he’ll break out in sores,” said Wynd. “They’re all itchy, and there were bloodied sores on him.”
The Black Creek group decided to buy him a new bed and bedding, because springs were sticking out of his mattress and his bed was stained with blood, Wynd said. The group also purchased badly-needed medicine and meal-replacement drinks for the boy, he said.
But another major problem was his earthquake-damaged home. Paquito was living in a shanty made from salvaged materials, and the heat inside was sweltering, Wynd said.
“It was cooking hot,” he said. “It was in the 30s and he’s in a tin shed.”
When the group returned to Canada, they appealed to the Black Creek congregation for donations and financed a complete renovation of his room.
“We had $2,000 within a week,” Wynd said. “And that was like double the money that we needed to fix his room.”
This allowed for the installation of an air conditioner that wouldn’t lose its cooling power through the shanty walls.
“Now he’s got a tiled room, his room’s insulated, there’s a door, the air conditioner’s all fitted in properly, he’s got a nice bed [and] apparently his skin is getting better,” he said.
The family is still struggling, but the boy’s condition has reportedly improved and his spirits were higher, Wynd said.
The church is continuing to raise funds for Paquito’s family and relief work in the impoverished state in the wake of the devastating earthquake.
Readers can donate to the effort online: www.gofundme.com/help-young-paquito-and-his-family.
The earthquake took place off Mexico’s southern coast on Sept. 8 last year, killing nearly 100 people and injuring hundreds more. In Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state, thousands of buildings were damaged.