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Sister city in desperate state

Posted: May 1, 2010 11:24 p.m.
Updated: May 2, 2010 4:55 a.m.

A neighborhood works together to pull a house back on to its foundation in Tena, Ecuador, which is one of Santa Clarita's sister cities. The city was recently ravaged by mudslides and flooding.

Santa Clarita’s sister city in the Amazon is mired in mud and water.

A relentless, two-day downpour has closed schools in the western rainforest city of Tena, Ecuador and left more than 1,200 families homeless.

“Our sister city is in need right now,” said Saugus resident Amparo Cevallos. “They haven’t had this kind of rain in 50 years.”

The Santa Clarita Valley’s International Program is calling upon local residents to aid the people of Tena, one of Santa Clarita’s two sister cities abroad.

“If a sister is in need, the other sister helps” said Amparo Cevallos, a board member for the international program and primary liaison with Tena. “We have to look after them.”

The rains brought water levels more than 20-feet high, Cevallos said. Flooded rivers consumed half the city and destroyed all bridges leading to the rainforest city. Its two water supply systems collapsed, Cevallos said.

At least two people died after being caught in the flood’s path.

“The situation is very desperate right now,” Cevallos said. “Children are getting sick because they don’t have homes and they’re living outside in tents.”

The city of Santa Clarita adopted Tena as its sister city nine years ago. Tena is a struggling area to begin with, Cevallos said.

“It’s a city in the jungle,” Cevallos said. “It’s not a rich city; it’s a (third-world) city and now even more so.”

Last year, Cevallos and a group delivered more than 200 computers to Tena.

Many of them were destroyed by the floods.

Cevallos, who is also the co-pastor of Centro De Amor Cristiano in Newhall, and other volunteers from the SCV accompanied a team of health professionals on annual medical missions trips to Tena, about a five-hour bus trip from Ecuador’s capitol, Quito.

The native of Quito said she wishes she could be in Tena to help the people that have shown her such hospitality and generosity in the past. She plans to visit the city again in October for a medical mission with the Milagros Para Ninos (Miracles for Children) foundation.

However, she said she will make a trip to the city before October if she receives enough donations and interested volunteers to provide relief.

The floods have caused more than $61 million in damage, according to a letter written by Tena’s Mayor, Washington Varela, and sent to the city of Santa Clarita.

Carl Boyer, one of Santa Clarita’s first City Council members and signed the sister city agreement, has accompanied a medical missions team to Tena in the past.

“Once you’ve been there, you know the people are just not well off,” Boyer said. “Many of them are making do.”

Tena’s mayor and residents have always welcomed residents from Santa Clarita with warmth and hospitality, Boyer said.

“I’m just hoping that some people, organizations and churches might look at Tena as a place that’s really worthy of our caring,” he said.



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