In the early evening hours of April 16, 2016, the coast of Ecuador was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, the worst since 1979. In the midst of widespread damage and destruction at least 676 people were killed, and more than 16,600 people were injured, making it the worst natural disaster in Ecuador since 1949. An aftershock measuring 6.1 magnitude was felt 4 days later, and officials found it difficult to distribute food and water to those left homeless by the disaster. With over 60% of homes in towns and villages on the Northern coast completely destroyed, over 26,000 survivors fled to shelters.
In Tabuga, a town of 600 on the Ecuadorian coast, the plight of survivors was the same: most of their homes were gone, along with their community center and library. The future looked bleak. Temporary tenting and cardboard shelters were erected, and supplies began to pour in, but permanent housing would have to wait.
In February, Dr. Meadows and his family traveled with a team of volunteers to Tabuga for 10 days to provide much needed medical care, and to assist in building permanent structures to safely house surviving families. For these families, medical care is a 6 hour bus ride away.
Dr. Meadows and his wife, Kathryn, led the medical group, seeing nearly 1,000 patients in a 5 day period. Due to insufficient water treatment, most of those patients were children with parasites. Other maladies treated were a ruptured Achilles tendon, cancer of the eyelid, and a variety of infections related to poor living conditions (the high humidity serves to exacerbate many medical conditions). Their daughter, Liesl, assisted Dr. Meadows in providing medical care, while their son, Aspen, helped to lead the children in Vacation Bible School, which to those traumatized children was both spiritually uplifting and therapeutic. Aspen also assisted in building a total of 11 permanent homes for the people in this region.
For Dr. Meadows and his family, this is their idea of a fantastic vacation: using their knowledge, skills, and expertise to help others who are less fortunate and unable to help themselves. Along with the rest of their team of volunteers, their dedication in reaching out to these earthquake survivors brought hope of healing and restoration.