The 160 business owners, mostly single mothers and elderly people, who lost everything after fired destroyed the San Miguelito Marketplace in San Salvador, El Salvador, sit during a special program held at the Central Adventist Church one block away from the market, on Oct. 14, 2021. Fire burned through one the largest marketplaces in the country on Sep. 22, 2021, destroying businesses. [Photo: Oscar Molina]

October 26, 2021 | San Salvador, El Salvador | Inter-American Division News

After a recent fire blazed across one of the largest marketplaces in El Salvador, destroying hundreds of family-owned businesses, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, through its Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in El Salvador, stepped in to help.  The fire, which swept through the San Miguelito Market on the morning of Sep. 22, caused hundreds of vendors and customers to run for their lives. Flames destroyed the entire marketplace, but no casualties were reported.

“This fire has left thousands of people without means of supporting themselves and their families, so we immediately activated an emergency response to help some affected families,” said Alexander Figueroa, ADRA El Salvador director.

Part of the damage caused by the fire in the San Miguelito Marketplace in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Sep. 22, 2021. [Photo: Courtesy of Juan Molina]

Immediate unemployment for families

The widespread destruction to the electrical and water services will take time to rebuild, said Figueroa. Fire forced immediate unemployment of all the vendors who depend on selling their goods every day to support their families. The marketplaces features vegetables, meats, clothing, shoes, toiletries, kitchen supplies, flowers and all kinds of merchandise for sale every day.

ADRA El Salvador, in partnership with ADRA International and in coordination with the Municipality of San Salvador, the Ministry of Interior and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in El Salvador, began the process of selecting beneficiaries, particularly single mothers and senior citizens, who are in crisis of unemployment and without a livelihood, said Figueroa.

A beneficiary is marked off a list before ADRA El Salvador staff hands her a cash incentive to help rebuild her business. [Photo: Oscar Molina]

One hundred and sixty beneficiaries were handed out envelopes with cash during a special ceremony on Oct. 14, at the Central Adventist Church in San Salvador, one block away from the San Miguelito Marketplace.

“There are no words to say of what you are receiving today, other than that it comes from God,” said Pastor Abel Pacheco, president of the church in El Salvador, as he joined other church leaders and ADRA staff.

Beneficiaries express appreciation

For Maria Mendoza, watching everything burn down was shocking. “The experience we had on that day of the fire was so traumatic,” said Mendoza. “It was so sad to see our place of work where we have grown [our business] but I thank God for the help that has been given to me here in this beautiful church,” she said.

 

ADRA El Salvador Country Director Alexander Figueroa hands a cash envelope to one of the 160 beneficiaries during a special ceremony on Oct. 14, 2021. [Photo: Oscar Molina]

Javier Hernández felt devastated after the fire affected his family’s business. “We practically lost everything, our equipment, workers, and we are all left without employment and we are just trying to find a way to survive,” he said. He is thankful to God for being alive and to the church for the support. “The Adventist Church is the first and the only church until this moment, that has approached us to offer a hand of support,” Hernández said.

At the time of the fire, Jacqueline Morales was with her children. “My mother was at our stand and when I returned, I saw how the flames were burning up everything,” she said. “Everything in our business was completely burned…we were left with nothing. But we are thankful to God for life and I thank the church and the Adventist school for helping us financially so that we can move forward.”

A business owner from the San Miguelito Marketplace sits in during the special program before she receives funds from ADRA El Salvador. She was one of 160 beneficiaries ADRA El Salvador assisted after the fire burned down her business. [Photo: Oscar Molina]

Adventist families affected

Juan Molina and his wife lost everything. So did his in-laws, who for 35 years ran their business at the San Miguelito marketplace. Together they sold dresses for special occasions including Quinceañera dresses, wedding gowns, wedding invitations, personalized mugs, promotional items, and more. The fire burned it all and now they are taking a spot on the street under temporary spaces set up by the government in the meantime.

“We lost all our equipment and supplies but we are taking orders from our clients who come so we don’t lose their business,” said Molina.  He and his family are Seventh-day Adventists who are clinging to God and praying they will be able to restart their business soon.

Ashes remain of Juan Molina’s business stall he shared with his wife and her family after fire swept through the San Miguelito Marketplace in San Salvador, El Salvador. [Photo: Courtesy of Juan Molina]

The Molinas were among 30 Adventist families who were affected by the fire, church leaders said. The church collected special funds to help 15 of the most needy church member families, church leaders said.

ADRA El Salvador will be providing reusable masks next week to the venders set up on the streets, in an effort to assist them in rebuilding their livelihoods.

Alexander Figueroa and Fabricio Rivera contributed information for this report.

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