It is Day 5 after the fire in Escopa. We have been so busy here at Gentle Hands after the Christmas Day fire under the bridge.

My morning shift over, its 2am. I gently woke Mandy who had grabbed 5 hours of sleep between shifts. Each hour of sleep is precious. Tonight, little JR won’t sleep… he whimpers and cries.

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He wants to be held, then wants to lay on the bed. He wants to be rubbed, then doesn’t want to be touched. His crying grates on the nerves… is the pain reliever making any difference? Is he missing him mommy? What is his little mind thinking? How much pain is he in?

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Thankfully, Kuya Martin, is improving. There were two days, I was so worried. The edema from the burns is causing his entire arm to be numb. His face had swollen to twice its size… the fever wouldn’t come down. He struggled to find a way to sleep that didn’t cause excruciating pain… Tonight he lays still, his breathing heavy. Two of the wounds have no infection. The arm is still bad… but no fever today…

There are hundreds of people crammed into the basketball court. They sleep on the cold cement. They have no blankets, no pillows.

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There are no restroom facilities and no where to bathe. They wait, breath held, for news of the government’s relocation plan for them. There is still no word. There has been some relief goods, some food but at lunchtime today, it stopped. Now they have to cook for themselves. The fighting has started. The people are tired… and some are getting sick. The children are suffering.

This afternoon alone, I felt like a walk-in clinic. There is a hospital near-by, but without money you cannot get treatment. Without upfront payment, you get little or no service in the emergency room… squatters, the poor of the poor, have no value in this society.

As mothers came with their children, I brace myself for the weeks ahead. It will most definitely get worse.

One mother, in a panic, after another child in the court went into convulsions, ran with her baby here. Fever, red eyes, crying… I bathed him. Put medicine in his eyes dreading an outbreak of pink eye. Gave him rehydration formula and prayed for him.

A teen, fever, vomiting, stomach pain… more rehydration, prayer, and antibiotics.

Another child, 4 months old, her neck covered in swollen pussing wounds, screaming in pain… a bath, cream, oral antibiotics, bandages, prayer.

She will have to be kept here…

Unknown5A little girl, 13 months, fever, won’t stop crying… Tylenol… found someone to hold her… cuddle her…

We are traumatized by all that has happened… I can’t imagine the trauma they must be feeling…

Karen, the little girl we just happened to take on Christmas Day, 3 hours before the fire, is finally getting better. She was full of infected wounds… it was a miracle we took her that night. She wouldn’t have made it out of the fire. Her face is finally clearing up and she is sleeping through the night.

We have 20 kids and several mothers and other siblings staying in a room downstairs.

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I am so thankful for the 5 short-termers that are here helping. I would be dead without them. The help we could give to Escopa would be next to nothing.

Leah is full time with the children… running a daycare/classroom/DVBS type set up.

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Mandy and Laura are on rotating shifts with the “ICU” as we fondly call it, with the burn victims.

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Stephanie is full time in the nursery with our regular children and the new ones that are being dropped off every day with sickness or wounds.

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Nicole is providing relief as she helps wherever the need is at the moment.

Please pray that God will strengthen these girls and give them wisdom and patience.

All the while, as we work to meet practical needs, we are haunted by the reality of our community gone. Every house… every home where we prayed, played, visited, ate… gone. For five years, we have invested blood, sweat, and tears… literally…  it’s all gone. Nothing but cinders left…yet the grief, though we are all too aware of it, must be pushed aside for another time. There is so much to do…

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