A sound recovery for hospital hit by major earthquake

Our colleagues from Functional Chemicals in Adria will never forget May 20, when at 4 o’clock in the morning they were awakened by a long tremor, caused by a major earthquake about 65 kilometres away.Also in the following days other tremors followed and the affected region was heavily damaged and counted many victims. About 6,000 people had to be evacuated, among which many elderly, to give them a safe place to stay. Luisa Passarella, site controller at the Adria site said: ‘Watching the TV news and talking with friends coming from the hit area we felt helpless and angry. Fundraising actions were started to provide money for the recovery of the area. But my colleagues and I had the strong desire to really contribute to that general effort. We were wondering how we could do something effective together, maybe with the support of our company that has always been sensitive toward communities.’

One colleague has a girl friend working in the affected area in Emilia Romagna, in a health facility named CISA in Mirandola. The hospital is well known and appreciated in Italy for its professional caring of elderly people and Alzheimer's patients. She talked about damages caused by the earthquake and the troubled conditions of patients that were temporarily moved to other facilities with high discomfort. Luisa and her colleagues had found their opportunity to help out and immediately contacted the CISA staff’s responsible who received the potential support with open arms. At the end of June, a small team of AkzoNobel volunteers went to visit the facility to investigate how they could contribute. They were deeply impressed by the severe damages in Mirandola. Many of the buildings had collapsed, the roof of the church had come down and the shops were still closed and had temporarily moved their activities elsewhere. Especially the desolated feeling when seeing the abandoned rooms of the 120 residential patients touched the volunteers’ hearts. They realized that help was badly needed here and the team agreed to focus their efforts on the recovery of the ground floor where there are several service rooms and a chapel and which was in the worst condition.

The building was structurally safe but rooms, furniture and equipment were badly damaged. When they returned to the office they discussed the situation with their colleagues and quite a number of employees were happy to join. A plan for help was prepared and support from the Community Program was quickly granted. As an immediate contribution the volunteers opted to replace some lost equipment purchasing trolleys for the transport of medicines and first aid backpacks useful for these types of emergencies. The project, at this point, had already taken shape and hearing about the condition of the hospital, more volunteers enlisted to join the actual big job to take place in the fall. In fact almost 50% of the total workforce became involved.

In a weekend in October, a team of 15 volunteers on Saturday and another 6 member team on Sunday gathered early in the morning in Mirandola equipped with gloves, safety shoes, brushes and 200 litres of paint provided by their colleagues from Decorative Paints. Welcomed by the CISA Staff, together they moved furniture, repaired cracks in the walls and ceiling and painted them afterwards, cleaned floors, doors and windows. The chapel was one of the first quarters ready for use and Sunday mass was actually held for the local community.

Although the cause of the project was a very sad one, our volunteering colleagues handled the work with great enthusiasm and commitment and they had a joyful time doing it together, as some of the reactions underline: ‘Guys we are doing a great job!’ or ‘If you’re tired, get some rest I’ll handle it for you!’ and ‘I'm exhausted but I really enjoyed this day’. At the end of the two days, all volunteers were quite satisfied with what they had achieved. Luisa concluded: ‘This experience has made us all proud of ourselves and also helped to improve the relationship between colleagues from different departments. We were not professional painters and we experienced fatigue and tiredness at end of the two days, but the pleasure of making someone happy and having contributed to strengthen hope for a quick recovery, is priceless.’