CLARKE COUNTY, Va. - More than 500 people are dead after the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador over the weekend.
The death toll continues to climb, after a tremor rattled the country Wednesday.
Aid is pouring into the country to help the survivors. Hope is not far away. Weretaw Berhanu with Project HOPE, a global health organization based in Clarke County, is traveling to the country Thursday.
"We'll do assessment of the situation in relation to healthcare, the damage in the hospitals. Clinic will do a thorough assessment and then report back the outcome of that assessment to headquarters," said Berhanu, regional logistics manager for Project HOPE.
Berhanu will be in Ecuador for up to fifteen days before heading back to Virginia.
"We'll be looking at the need for volunteers, doctors and nurses to go in and assist the local health professionals. We'll also be looking at strengthening the health system by providing medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and possibly some equipment," said Scott Crawford, director of humanitarian operations for Project HOPE.
Depending on the outcome of the assessment, Project HOPE's disaster relief team could be on the ground for several months.
"Looking at on the short term, how long does that effort need to help, and then if we go long term, what would that look like? Does that turn into a global health program?" said Kenly Flanigan, program specialist for global volunteers and humanitarian aid and disaster response for Project HOPE.
As a nonprofit, Project HOPE relies on donations to make disaster relief like this possible.
"It’s crucial, and it helps us help others," said Dalibor Tasevski with donor outreach for Project HOPE.
Berhanu, who will be conducting the initial assessment for Project HOPE, said he's been traveling the world helping with disaster relief for more than 20 years.
"So, you bring some equipment that helps you protect yourself again if a building collapses. You have a helmet. You bring flashlights," Berhanu said.
The quake in Ecuador destroyed or damaged thousands of buildings, triggered mudslides and has left tens of thousands of people sleeping in shelters.
"Support the people who are needed because that is my passion and my call," Berhanu said.