The earthquake that hit Ecuador in April this year, has disrupted the lives of many and has had a devastating impact on the economy. Espoir, a microcredit organization supported by Cordaid, is one of the Ecuadorian businesses that suffered immensely from the consequences of the earthquake.
“It was incredible how everything changed in the blink of an eye”, says Francisco Moreno Oleas, the CEO of Espoir. “This event has impacted the lives of people in an unimaginable way.”
Together with the Red de Instituciones Financieras de Desarrollo (RFD) and with the help of Cordaid, Espoir created an extensive guide on how to handle this kind of situation, a ‘Post-Disaster Recovery and Response Plan for Development Finance Institutions’.
An indispensable guideline
According to Oleas, this document will become an indispensable guideline for organizations on how to act when disaster strikes and how to prepare themselves for possible future events.
For the Spanish version click here.
After the initial shock, Oleas soon realized his organization had an important branch office in one of the worst-affected areas; the city of Portoviejo, the capital of the province of Manabí. “It was a major blow to our organization. The earthquake hit Manabí the hardest. A region where we have been working for 23 years and where most of our clients work and live.”
“My employees were expecting me to come up with a clear plan. But that plan didn’t exist.”
Francisco Moreno Oleas, CEO of Espoir
The scale of destruction to his organization and his clients left Oleas in the dark on what immediate steps to take to mitigate the situation. “We had dealt with other disasters before, like a flooding. Or even a major economic crisis. But the earthquake was so violent and its impact on such a scale, we just didn’t know where to begin.”
Espoir’s branch office in Portoviejo, before and after the earthquake.
Right after the events of April 16, the CEO called his employees together in the capital Quito to discuss further steps, only to come to the painful conclusion that they were lacking a lot of vital information.
“We started searching the internet, hoping to find some answers. We contacted our partner organizations abroad, asking if anybody had any experience with a similar situation. My employees were expecting me to come up with a clear plan. But that plan didn’t exist.”
“You never think you need something like that until you do. We never thought our building would come crumbling down, but it did.”
Francisco Moreno Oleas, CEO of Espoir
Preparing for future disasters
“Cordaid provided the financial means to hire an international consultant who could help us find an answer to our questions. This helped us getting back in business and to prepare for possible future disasters. Together with this consultant we worked for a month and a half and during that period, things slowly went back to normal. We started looking for a new building in which we could reactivate the branch office and in July we actually inaugurated our new office.”
Spreading the Post-Disaster Recovery Plan
Espoir’s recovery plan was born out of necessity and has contributed to a quicker reactivation of its business than the CEO dared hope for. Now he sees it as his mission to share this potentially life-saving information with other organizations. “It is incredibly important that we publish this report and make it available to other organizations so the information on how to act in the aftermath of a disaster like this, is easily accessible. Maybe it won’t be possible for everybody to comply with all the guidelines, but it will definitely help. I mean, you never think you need something like that until you do. We never thought our building would come crumbling down, but it did.”
Cover photo credit: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Earthquake in Ecuador: the EU’s emergency response via photopin (license)