‘Moms’ expand relief effort for quake-ravaged Ecuador

A groundswell of homegrown support for the victims of April’s massive earthquake in Ecuador now includes a major alliance that will help push relief efforts across the Miami-Dade community.

“Miami Moms for Ecuador,” a collaboration of concerned and connected mothers in Pinecrest, launched their initial efforts in the immediate aftermath of the magnitude 7.8 quake on Apr. 16. Within hours of learning of the disaster, they were mobilizing their children, parishioners and school administrators to start collection drives at private and parochial schools in the local area.

Their efforts started out small, but these determined moms knew that by joining hands, pooling resources, and making use of the significant connections they have in their community, they might just make a big difference.

And they were right.
On Mother’s Day weekend, more than 100 “Miami Moms,” kids, volunteers and community leaders gathered at their central collection point in Doral to formally announce the full support and backing of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, the Ryder Charitable Foundation, and the Consulate General of Ecuador.

Even the warehouse space at Royal Flowers was donated through a connection of one of the Ecuadorean moms. It served as the perfect backdrop to a successful press conference they hosted to unveil details of a large-scale, countywide effort aimed at netting enough emergency supplies to fill at least 12 planes by late May.

“As with any disaster there is going to be huge demand for caring individuals and organizations to provide help, especially in such an impoverished area as rural Ecuador,” said Laura Munilla, Pinecrest resident and mother of six.

Munilla is a native of Guayaquil, Ecuador, and one of dozens of local moms — many with close family or business ties to Ecuador — coordinating the “Miami Moms for Ecuador” initiative.

“Our hearts were broken as we watched the devastation on TV,” she said. “Especially when it’s your country and your people — and you live 2,000 miles away — there’s an immediate sense of helplessness. But then you say, ‘wait a minute; we are connected; we are powerful women; we have friends with contacts; we can do this.”

One early call Munilla made was to fellow Pinecrest resident and PTA mom Anna Hochkammer, who was busy working her own connections in the community. With three daughters, all born in Quito, and an Ecuadorean husband in international logistics, the Hochkammer family likewise was inspired to jump into action. Within 72 hours of hearing the news, Hochkammer said they had established their own food and supply drives at both Palmetto High and Palmetto Middle Schools. And now Munilla wanted details.

“We talked and shared, but it was clear Laura had her sights set on a much bigger effort,” Hochkammer said. “She took our little idea and turned it into a very big successful idea.”

Even still, when the idea was posed to possibly expand their effort to include the Miami-Dade Public School system, none of the moms could have anticipated the speed by which superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho responded. Without hesitation, he immediately agreed to activate a two-week collection campaign through May 20 at the 460 schools encompassing the entire system.

“A mother knows no boundaries; a mother sees no roadblocks in her determination to help others, even in a place thousands of miles away,” Carvalho said at the May 7 press conference. “Miami-Dade County Public Schools has great admiration for this group of mothers who set aside their own day of tribute to raise their voices in support of the victims of this great tragedy in Ecuador. They are foregoing their special day to be of service to those in need, and we salute and support them.”

The Ryder Charitable Foundation echoed this sentiment, in agreeing to provide the use of their trucks and drivers to collect the school system donations. “Ryder supports causes that align with our company’s core values of Trust, Expertise, Innovation, Safety, and Collaboration,” said David Bruce, vice president of Ryder Corporate Communications & Community Relations.

“These amazing moms are bringing together people, resources, and much-needed relief items in ways that are a great community model for Collaboration. We’re glad to be a part of this effort to help the people of Ecuador at this time of urgent need.”

Consul General of Miami Eduardo Rivadeneira Baquerizo issued the following statement to Miami Moms for Ecuador: “On behalf of the entire Ecuadorean community, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Miami-Dade County officials, Ryder System, and to the residents of Greater Miami for their unconditional support of our country. We are happy to be a part of this effort and are certain it will be a most successful campaign.”

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