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From north to south the Italian territory is seismically active and periodically there are dramatic earthquakes. Through its community contacts AWAR seeks to respond as these two different stories tell.

L'Aquila Earthquake

On April 8, 2009, an earthquake of 6.3 magnitude on the Richter Scale caused dramatic loss of lives and devastating damage to vast areas of the region of Abruzzi and its capital city, L'Aquila. The Civil Defense branch of the Italian government worked round-the-clock to assist victims and arrange temporary facilities for tens of thousands of citizens left homeless, but there is much to be done to bring normal life back to the area.

When there are natural disasters, large sums of money flow into government programs for major reconstruction work, but experience has shown us that we can activate our contacts in order to undertake small, helpful projects which are not included in those plans. One of our members had contact with an Italian architect, which led to a meeting with the Major of L'Aquila, Massimo Cialente. He identified the need for children's playground equipment for a newly constructed housing area.

Our sister American-international clubs in Italy - Florence, Genoa, Naples, Milan, Turin - also participated in this project as well as St. James Episcopal Church in Florence. The swings, jungle gym and slides have been installed and the new playground opened.


The Friuli Earthquake

It was a far different Italy which in 1976 faced the disastrous earthquake in the economically depressed northern region of Friuli. The Italian Civil Protection Department had not yet been established but volunteer groups from many countries came to help.

Our members collected funds and searched for a local contact to identify something useful for us to contribute. A member learned from the Baptist Church in Rome that Robert Holifield of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention had volunteers in the zone helping families that lost everything to rebuild. He described the use of the funds we gathered in these words:
"One of our primary objectives in assisting the earthquake victims has been to help re-establish the economic base for families which lost everything, or almost everything in the earthquake. We provided new houses for families who were living in cattle stalls in the most despicable circumstances. Yet, when the houses were completed, we realized that these families needed some basic equipment to help them produce marketable items for a part of their livelihood. So we constructed fireplaces for their homes which serve both for heat in winter and also for making cheese during the periods when milk is available from their animals. Your funds were used to purchase the materials for the construction of the fireplaces. The labor was provided by a group of young Swiss volunteers."