By Zal Bilimoria, KF9 Ecuador
Let me start off by saying that I think everything will be fine. Everyone is safe – no injuries but a few terrified souls. I wish I had brought my camera with me, but we were told to leave instantly. It all started when Rocio – the Kiva Coordinator at Fundacion ESPOIR in Quito responsible for uploading loans from the branch offices to Kiva.org – was showing me the painstaking manner for how she uses a combination of Excel spreadsheets, a scratch piece of paper and a calculator to upload the monthly repayments of ESPOIR’s borrowers from the two offices in Cuenca and Manabi. More on that later.
I was facing the terrace window at the time and saw a large flash followed by smoke as the ground shook momentarily on the top floor of the Comandato building where ESPOIR’s administrative office is located in Quito. Simultaneously, we lost power, and fire alarms started to pierce our ears. We quickly went outside to the terrace – unwisely I must say – to understand the cause. Based on the location from where the smoke was coming, it could only have been the elevator right outside the office. My heart sunk a bit, as I feared for any people that might have been inside (luckily, no one was). We still do not know the cause, as this just happened less than 30 minutes ago.
Apparently, the cable broke, but the elevator had remained steadfastly in place. I can still smell some smoke, but what I’ll remember most is the terrified look of a few individuals in the office who were being comforted by those of us who were trying to calm them down and even laugh about it a bit to ease the tension. Even more concerning, there is a gas station next door!
I walked over to the desk of Karina – with whom I’m currently staying in a very nice, comfortable apartment in New Town – and asked her how the servers were doing since she’s been head of Systems for ESPOIR for 15+ years. All of them were down, and the head office was not able to connect to the branch offices – a potentially serious issue when thinking about the sheer amount of data that is being downloaded and stored – tens of thousands of loans and the associated data. We believe there was no data loss, but the staff is still in the process of verifying as the servers are now back up and running.
We quickly exited the building as the fire truck, ambulance, and police cars drove up. After 20 minutes, we re-entered the building after the emergency support crew reassured us.
The cable broke. I found it incredible that I was speaking to a few friends and family back home last night about my overdependence on the Internet, as both Facebook and YouTube are blocked in ESPOIR’s offices and there is no connection available in the apartment where I’m staying. I even started a draft of that post, but when I heard that the cause was a broken cable, it reminded me that there are more important things in life than my access to the web. As I now hear laughter and talk of where to each lunch permeating the office, I know we’ll all be fine, and that I bonded 30 minutes ago with the incredibly warm and friendly staff members at ESPOIR.
Check out Kiva.org and lend to the hard-working women of Ecuador./>