With the combination of a broken levee and a rainy season that brought four times the average rainfall, the flooding in Colombia in 2010 reached far and wide. In the southern part of the Atlántico department on the Caribbean coast, Campo de la Cruz was completely submerged under water. And Fredy Montero, the star forward on the Seattle Sounders MLS team, felt the call to help his hometown from the Pacific Northwest.
Montero was born in Campo de la Cruz and learned to play football in the streets. When the residents were evacuated, including some of his relatives, Fredy took action. He worked with the Seattle Sounders and their fans, the Emerald City Supporters, to raise more than £19,800 for Mercy Corps’ emergency response programmes in the region.
Campo de la Cruz, like other municipalities in the area, was flooded to the rooftops for three months. When the water finally receded and residents began returning home, Mercy Corps was there to help.
Mercy Corps had started working in the region in mid-2010, months before the rains began, so we were able to respond quickly. We brought humanitarian aid to those living in refugee tent villages along the highways and started youth programmes to help children deal with the immediate trauma of losing their homes and living in temporary shelters.
In August 2011, Mercy Corps delivered 400 humanitarian kits, which included mattresses, pillows, sheets, cleaning and cooking supplies, dishware, utensils and other vital items that were lost or ruined in the floodwater. Residents also participated in a food-for-work programme, cleaning and strengthening the existing canals that ran though the town.
In addition to helping rebuild households, Mercy Corps in coordination with psychology students from Universidad Norte, ran a psychosocial programme in Campo de la Cruz with direct funding from the Seattle Sounders. As many as 100 people came to each of the ten sessions, where they were divided into smaller groups for discussions with the trained professionals. There were tears, there was laughter, and there was healing. Participants performed activities that brought to the surface their darkest fears of the floods returning again in the night, and then released them, giving way for a new day full of sunshine and opportunity.
There has been a lot of healing in Campo de la Cruz over the past six months, and after the pass of the annual rainy season — which this time posed no new threat — reconstruction is in full swing with houses being repainted and businesses.
In Barranquilla, the capital of Atlántico about two hours away, Carnaval is a huge event with parades, parties, costumes and joy. Last year Campo de la Cruz was still flooded. This year Campo de la Cruz touted the theme “Retorno a la Alegría” or the “return of happiness” and, thanks to Fredy and the Sounders, Mercy Corps was there with them to celebrate.