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 Marketplace on September 22, 2021, 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,” Alexander Figueroa, ADRA El Salvador director, said.
Immediate Unemployment for Families
The widespread destruction to the electrical and water services will take time to rebuild, said Figueroa. The fire forced immediate unemployment of all the vendors, who depend on selling their goods every day to support their families. The marketplace 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 lost their employment and livelihood, Figueroa said.
One hundred and sixty beneficiaries were handed envelopes containing cash during a special ceremony on October 14 at the Central Adventist Church in San Salvador, one block from the San Miguelito Marketplace.
“There are no words to say of what you are receiving today, other than that it comes from God,” Abel Pacheco, president of the Adventist Church in El Salvador, said 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,” Mendoza said. “It was so sad to see our place of work where we have grown [our business destroyed], but I thank God for the help that has been given to me here in this beautiful church.”
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 that has so far approached us to offer 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.”
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, in the meantime, they are taking a spot on the street under temporary spaces set up by the government.
“We lost all our equipment and supplies, but we are taking orders from our clients who come so we don’t lose their business,” Molina said. He and his family are Seventh-day Adventists clinging to God and praying they can restart their business soon.
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 neediest church member families, church leaders said.
ADRA El Salvador will be providing reusable masks next week to the vendors set up on the streets to assist them in rebuilding their livelihoods.
Alexander Figueroa and Fabricio Rivera contributed information to this report.