Sixty-two seconds. It’s a sliver of time that comes and goes in a flash; a fleeting period that barely registers on the 24-hour scale of daily life. Last Easter Sunday afternoon however, 62 seconds seemed like an eternity for Genesis Andrade ‘10 and tens of millions of people from Northern Baja to Nevada who experienced firsthand the alarming power of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that rocked the region.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the “significant seismic activity” lasted roughly 62 seconds, but the quake’s impact on the small communities located between San Felipe, Mexico and the U.S. border deeply rattled Andrade and her family as they drove home from vacation.
“When the earthquake happened, my family and I were coming back from a vacation in San Felipe, which is about an hour or so south of Mexicali,” Andrade recently recalled, her voice taut from the memory. “The roads were blocked off, and a lot of people, a lot of families, were on the side of the road with whatever personal possessions they could get before evacuating their homes.”
Soon after, disheartening images of the extensive damage and displaced citizens in the areas in-and-around Mexicali were broadcast across the world. Yet for Andrade, the raw and unfiltered experience of seeing children wandering alone and unprotected amidst the chaos “was what really affected me. I knew then that I had to do something immediately to help those children and their families put their lives back together.”
No sooner did her family pull the car into the driveway of their Brawley, Calif. home did Andrade — whose exceptional abilities in the classroom allowed her to graduate a semester early with a double major in political science and Spanish — swing into action. She began by collecting as much information as she could about the extent of the devastation, and the results of that search were sobering.
According to published reports from the Baja California state government, damages to the Mexicali area were estimated to be in excess of $425 million. There were concerns on both sides of the border that the number could rise significantly, due to the fact that damages to the area’s schools had not yet been accurately accessed. Additionally, the bleak outlook for the region painted by both local and national media left Andrade feeling overwhelmed.
“At first, I felt really helpless,” she said. “Then I thought about it, and felt it would be a good idea to contact some friends at USD, and maybe we could come up with ways to help these people.”
Andrade connected with several classmates as well as University Ministry, the Experiential Learning and Adventure Center (ELAC), the Trans-Border Institute (TBI) and the Center for Awareness, Service and Action (CASA). Together they came up with the plan to collect donations during Earth Week and the St. Didacus Collection at Sunday masses, as well as host the premiere of a documentary film, “180° South,” where all proceeds went directly to the earthquake relief effort. ”I’m really blessed by the support that’s been offered to me by my friends at USD,” she said. “I don’t think any of this would be possible without their help.”
In addition to USD’s efforts to raise money and awareness, Andrade has also been working with her church, La Iglesia Cristiana Torre Fuerte in Brawley, to bring food and supplies to those who have been displaced from their homes. While she is pleased with the inroads made to aid the region’s recovery, Andrade knows there is still much to be done.
“In Mexicali, there is still so much that needs to be accomplished in terms of rebuilding infrastructure and providing people with basic needs,” she said. “These are our neighbors, and it’s really important to try to lend a helping hand.”
— Mike Sauer
For more information or to donate, contact La Iglesia Cristiana Torre Fuerte at (760) 234-3338. The church’s address is 545 East Street, Brawley, CA, 92227.
Earthquake photo by Guillermo Arias/Associated Press