Friday, July 8, 2016

Boy sells toys to help earthquake victims

Noah Maranzana with the favourite toy he's selling to raise money for earthquake victims in Ecuador (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Noah Maranzana was enjoying lunch with his family in Ecuador when it suddenly became frightening.
The walls of the restaurant they were in started shaking, and the lights started swinging.
Through a window, the seven-year-old Saltus student saw broken roads.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” he said. “Then my mom and dad told me to get under the table. It was an earthquake. It was very scary.”
When the dust cleared on April 16, the Maranzana family learnt they’d survived a 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
“We were lucky,” said Karen, Noah’s Ecuadorean mother. “We were a couple of miles out of town with my mother and brother. After the earthquake, my mother was crying because communications were down and my other brother was at home. Luckily he was okay, but many people weren’t.”
The earthquake’s epicentre was Portoviejo, a Pacific coast city of 250,000 people including Mrs Maranzana’s parents. Hundreds were killed in the quake and many more were left injured and homeless. “About 75 per cent of the city was destroyed,” said Mrs Maranzana. “There’d been an earlier earthquake that we didn’t feel.”
The Maranzanas, who run Portofino Restaurant in Hamilton, were scheduled to return to Bermuda the next day but the airports were closed in the aftermath. Mrs Maranzana and husband Simone used the extra days they had in Ecuador to help out in a relief centre, packaging medicine for earthquake victims.
When they were finally home, Mrs Maranzana was wracked with guilt. She was safe and sound, but many of her friends were still suffering. Aftershocks continued with one at magnitude 6.8 in May. “When I came back here I felt like I was not doing anything,” said Mrs Maranzana. “I felt sad.
“I was crying almost every day. I was thinking of how scary it was. One afternoon I was crying by myself. Noah came in and asked if I was crying about Ecuador. I said yes, I want to do something and I want to help people there. He said, ‘If you like we can sell my toys and sell them and buy things for them’.”
His mother expressed concern that Noah might miss them, but the little boy shrugged, saying he had too many anyway. One of the toys he proposed was a favourite: a stuffed snake. Mrs Maranzana’s friend Paola Latour, another Ecuador-born Bermuda resident, offered her house as a location for a yard sale.
“I was in Bermuda when it happened,” said Mrs Latour. “My family live in Cuenca, in a different area of Ecuador. They felt it but were not badly affected. But I was watching it on the news. As time went by the death numbers kept escalating — 20, 30, 100, 600. The final count was 659 dead.”
The women hope the sale will benefit families in Ecuador. They plan to distribute cash and other items at a shelter in the South American country when they visit at Christmas.
“We want to use the money to purchase Christmas hampers and gifts for children orphaned by the disaster,” Mrs Maranzana said. “We also want to help families. In Ecuador, Christmas is a very religious time and families spend a lot of time together. This way they’ll be able to have a proper Christmas meal. It will help them forget their misery for a little bit.”
Toys, plants, books and clothing will all be available at a “reasonable price” at the September sale.
The women are asking the public to donate items for it. Noah and his brother Gabriel and Mrs Latour’s daughter, Sophie, will run a lemonade stand at the sale to raise additional funds.
“I want to help,” said Noah.
The sale will be on September 10 at 9 Salt Kettle Lane, Paget from 9am to 3pm. Contact Mrs Maranzana on 533-1182.
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