Following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador on April 16, Ecuadorian Bowdoin students Cesar Siguencia ’18, Caroline Martinez ’16, Andres Aguaiza ’17, Paola Rios ’18 and Cristina Tamay ’18 immediately began planning fundraising efforts to support their country from afar. 

The group has been selling empanadas in Smith Union to raise money for the Red Cross. They raised $805 during their sales on April 20 and April 21. Siguencia explained that the group decided to give to the Red Cross directly because the organization provides the simplest way to distribute funds to the most amount of people in Ecuador.

Hoping to reach $5,000 in donations, their online fundraiser will stay open until May 6 on their GoFundMe page. As of press time, the group has raised a grand total of $2,035 from 43 donors in the past seven days—an average of almost $50 per donation.

Martinez felt driven to do whatever she could despite the distance from her home country. 
“I had other friends who were there and who were volunteering, so to be here at Bowdoin and to not [be] doing anything just felt wrong,” said Martinez.

Students and professors alike have shown solidarity in their fundraising efforts, noted Siguencia. 

“I want to thank the people that have been very supportive, I think as Cesar said, like [Roger Howell, Jr.] Professor [of wHistory] Allen Wells encouraging his students to come and [Associate] Professor [of Romance Languages and Literatures Enrique] Yepes and other people donating online and sending encouraging messages,” said Martinez. “I received a lot of messages from professors and mentors and people in the Career Planning Center and friends just asking me if my family and friends were safe and that meant a lot as well.”

Because of the continuing impacts of this earthquake, both the physical and emotional damage will endure beyond the timeframe of the fundraising campaign.

“I am Ecuadorian, and I am very proud of that, but at the same time, it is a third world country, it’s not that big up in the news,” said Siguencia. “So for Ecuadorians at this school, what we have to do, what is just our responsibility, is to tell and inform as many students as possible.”

From here, the group plans on expanding their sales of empanadas to College Houses and on the Quad with the help of a Good Ideas Fund grant, like they did on Thursday afternoon. In addition, they hope to host more fundraising and awareness events, like coffee houses or an Alternative Spring Break trip.

Next Friday, May 6, at 3 p.m. on the Main Quad, there will be a Gelato Fiasco fundraising event: all proceeds will go to their campaign for Ecuador’s Red Cross.

If you’re looking for how to get involved, Martinez suggests checking out their Facebook and GoFundMe pages, as well as just seeking out information from her directly.

After graduation, Martinez will return to Ecuador with hopes to give direct support by volunteering. Over the weekend, she spoke with several Ecuadorian students at Brown University who informed her of their plans to start a reconstruction project in a small town, inspiring her to do so at Bowdoin.

“After giving direct relief to people, making sure they have food, medicine and water, you have to begin to reconstruct their homes that have been completely destroyed,” said Martinez. “So I think Bowdoin students definitely can start a campaign to reconstruct, at least in a small town.” 
Furthermore, Martinez hopes to see something beyond emotional support from the Bowdoin Community.

“I just want to see that people care. And I have received some emails from people that have just been like ‘What can I do?’ Not just to ask, ‘Are you okay,’ but to see how they can help this campaign,” said Martinez. “That’s been nice, seeing people wanting to take an active role.”

Martinez and Siguencia both said that their families and friends were safe, as they found out via phone calls hours and days after the quake and through Facebook’s “safe” markers.