On a chilly winter day in the community of Penco, we held the closing ceremony for the Comfort for Kids program, implemented by the Educacion Popular en Salud (or EPES) Foundation with the support of Mercy Corps. Approximately 150 of the 200 children that participated in the program in this community (there are more than 1,000 children participating in the entire program) showed up for the celebration accompanied, for the most part, by a significant adult — mother, father, grandfather, grandmother or aunt.
Local authorities in attendance included representatives from the mayor´s office, the Talcahuano Health Service and The Lirquén Hospital Local Development Council, as well as a Senator and Council Representative of the community. The ceremony was covered by journalists from the local government as well as the Talcahuano Health Service.
During the ceremony, the coordinator of the Penco Department of Health and the community Senator offered a few words, and two children shared their experience of participating in the Comfort for Kids workshops.
The Penco school hall was brightened with colored balloons representing each group of children from the program — in total, eight groups corresponding to the sectors of Nueva La Greda, Lomas del Conquistador, La Fech, La Ernita, Penco School, Jorge Montt School and Baquedano. Some groups came prepared with banners, thanking EPES for their support, others with drawings alluding to the hope for reconstruction after the disaster.
Each group was represented by one or two children who received, on behalf of the whole group, the diplomas made by EPES and handed out by the Senator and Council Representative and Department of Health. EPES also gave a certificate to and acknowledged the work done by the 13 facilitators who conducted the workshops, who after being voluntarily trained had the time and motivation to work in their communities with the children affected by the earthquake and tsunami. At this time a special atmosphere was created, as each facilitator was named, the children chanted the names of their “tias” or “aunts” as they were affectionately called.
Finally, the ceremony ended with a small celebration where all the children — together with their families and invited guests — enjoyed a delicious cake, juice and soft drinks.