Valparaiso Indiana is reaching out to help its namesake city in Chile where nearly two weeks ago a devastating fire took at least 15 lives and destroyed over 2-thousand homes, making tens of thousands homeless.
During a Tuesday press conference at City Hall, Mayor Jon Costas made it clear that both cities have more in common than their names, saying that both, "Our YMCA's share a close connection." Mayor Costas also says that students and faculty at Valparaiso University have visited and interned in Chile, "becoming completely immersed in the culture of another Valparaiso." The mayor says, "Because we're a caring community, we're interested in doing what we can to help our Chilean friends recover from this tragic fire."
“Our own Valparaiso Family YMCA has had a warm relationship with the Asociacion Cristiana de Jovenes de Valparaiso (YMCA of Valparaiso, Chile) for more than a decade. We’d like to help them jump-start their recovery efforts,” said Valparaiso YMCA CEO Bob Wanek. “We know that the hillside YMCA is one of the only buildings that survived the fire and that their role has changed from education and recreation to providing basic food and shelter. The situation is complicated by the fact that many of the residents who have lost their homes do not have deeds to their land. They’re reluctant to leave the area to seek assistance, so the local YMCA has become all the more important.”
Some of the staff members of the remaining YMCA have lost their own homes, but remain on the job providing assistance to others. “It always amazes me to see how people pitch in in times of tragedy, sacrificing so much to help others,” said Wanek.
With help from the Valparaiso Family YMCA, Valparaiso University students have traveled to Valparaíso, Chile for outreach efforts over the years, assisting with local projects, including fundraising. “In 2010, I traveled to Chile with the student cohort and met with our colleagues at the YMCA,” said Julie Maddox, Director of Study Abroad Programs for Valparaiso University and a volunteer with the Valparaiso Family YMCA’s international committee. “While there, I toured the outreach programs the YMCA supports, including the community center in the Cerro Las Canas, which has been damaged by the recent fires. I was very impressed with the commitment the YMCA has to its community and observed the passion with which our colleagues serve the poor.”
According to the YMCA of the USA, the best way to help in Valparaíso, Chile is by contributing financially as in-kind gifts are difficult to transport and distribute. The YMCA of Valparaíso has developed a two-phase plan to support their community, beginning with offering shelter, food, and recreation services to 70 homeless families and culminating with the repairs to their own building. They estimate the multi-step plan to cost a total of $120,000. “We’re amazed at how much the Chileans are able to do with limited resources. We’re working to assemble a matching fund to inspire giving,” said Wanek. Those interested in contributing to the matching pool may contact Bob Wanek at the Valparaiso Family YMCA, 219-462-4185.
To support immediate recovery efforts, YMCA of the USA World Service has established the Chile YMCA Relief Fund, with 100 percent of donations going to relief and recovery efforts in Valparaíso. To donate, please visit the World Service donation page at https://donate.ymca.net/world-service-donation.aspx, and indicate in the “Comments/special instructions” box below that your contribution is designated for the “Chile YMCA Relief Fund.” This will ensure that 100 percent of your contribution will go to the YMCA of Valparaíso. You can also stay up to date on the latest efforts through a Facebook page created by the YMCA of Valparaiso:https://www.facebook.com/apagarelincendio.