Sarah Nation, Spanish and Latin American Studies student
A Queen’s University student on exchange in Chile when the powerful earthquake hit in February is helping Habitat for Humanity rebuild homes.
Sarah Nation, a Spanish and Latin American Studies student, wanted to do something to help the people in Talcahuano, Chile after visiting the area which she describes as “a ghost town.” A tsunami caused by the 8.8-magnitude quake destroyed Talcahuano, leaving 109 families to live in tents without electricity and running water.
“I considered myself to be extremely lucky and my experience in Chile had been incredible so I felt I needed to do my part and give back in any way that I could,” said Ms Nation, who is on a five-month exchange at Pontificia Universidad de Catolica in Chile.
Despite having no construction experience, Ms Nation and her Chilean friends took 86 volunteers – including 24 exchange students – to Talcahuano for three days of construction on May 20. The following weekend, a smaller group continued the work with the help of volunteers from the city of Santa Clara. Ms Nation and the volunteers are hoping to finish 10 houses by June 20.
When the quake hit on February 27 at 3:30 in the morning, Ms. Nation was near the epicentre, on a bus headed to the town of Pucon for a weekend trip.
“We had all been sleeping and woke up to what felt like we were underwater sinking or had four flat tires, as the bus was bouncing from one side to the other for three long minutes. When I looked out the window all I could see was metal hydro poles and lights swaying back and forth. No one understood what was going on,” Ms. Nation said.
Hundreds of people were killed and more than two million people were affected by the quake in some way.