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New hope for flooded-out families

Colombia, September 8, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Bryan Ringlen Lebehn for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Nayis Mariaga and her family built their home in one of the many coastal communities deluged by Colombia's historic flooding. Photo: Bryan Ringlen Lebehn for Mercy Corps

The Nueva Esperanza shelter holds 150 families in this hot and humid stretch along the Caribbean Sea. The region just beyond here suffered massive flooding in late 2010, part of an ongoing deluge that Colombia's president has called the "the worst natural disaster that we can remember." Heavy rains filled lakes and rivers, which then spilled onto farmlands, washed out roads and inundated local communities.

Nayis Mariaga and her family built their home in one of the flooded-out communities. She and her neighbors had no option but to flee. Nayis, her husband and her four children now live in Nueva Esperanza.

Mercy Corps has partnered with a local charity, Pastoral Social, to help Nayis and her neighbors get the support they need to survive their displacement. Nayis is one of 15 leaders who Mercy Corps is connecting to government services, training on conflict resolution and giving the tools to prepare for future disasters. They're appealing for assistance the government is responsible for providing in emergencies, like clean water and food.

Times are tough, and the new neighborhood isn't much — 15 identical streets lined with adjoining concrete homes and latrines out back. But with Mercy Corps’ help, Nayis and her community are persevering. When Nayis isn’t advocating for the families of Nueva Esperanza, she mends clothes with a sewing machine saved from the floods. It is a small but important source of income for her family. "I charge less because I’m trying to help others," she told me. "We all have to help each other."