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Calgary Chilean community fundraising to support victims of wildfires

Members of Calgary’s Chilean community are coming together to raise critical funds for the victims of a devastating wildfire that’s claimed the lives of more than 130 people in the country’s Valparaíso region and left hundreds more missing.

The news is especially devastating for Calgarians like Mony Villalobos who waited more than two days to hear back from her cousin who sent her a video of their destroyed home.

In the video, her cousin Maria Puntarelli can be heard speaking Spanish while looking heartbroken at four exterior brick walls left standing amongst the ruins of her home without its roof along the coastal hills of Chile.

“She told me that she suddenly heard sirens, she woke up her family, her two girls and husband to go outside and that’s when they noticed ashes falling from the sky,” Villalobos said.

“I just can’t even imagine what the people of Chile are going through, I try to be strong because I know Chileans are strong and we fight for what we need.”

Villalobos’ father Manuel Lillo says donations are needed most in the form of resources to help build sustainable homes along the hillsides.

He pointed to a housing shortage in Chile and the inability of politicians in his country to recognize that many of the neighbourhoods are unsafe and left unprotected in the event of a wildfire.

“There needs to build proper streets, they need electricity, they need water in their homes,” he said.

“We’re in the 21st Century and these are painful situations, there’s no drive to solve the problems and the poor are the ones left to suffer here in one of the worst situations in years.”

The Chilean Canadian Community Association of Calgary (CCCAC) is now planning two fundraisers to help fire victims.

Two events are planned for Feb. 18 and 25, from noon to 6 p.m. at the Chilean Cultural Centre located at 4774 Westwinds Drive N.E. in unit 519.

CCAC secretary Dagoberto Correa has also helped to set up a GoFundMe campaign where donations will be sent directly to two organizations in Chile working on the ground: Un Techo Para Chile and Desafio Laventemos Chile.

Correa received a text message Friday morning from a close friend who had lost three of his family members to the fire. He says fundraising is the least the local Chilean community can do to offer its support.

“With this level of devastation, the whole neighbourhood was destroyed and nothing was left and also the amount of people being killed,” said Correa,

“It’s just very shocking to see people lost everything and people losing their lives.”

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