Family survives tornado; home doesn't

Bonfilia Maldonado, 26, and her two young children lost their home in the tornado outbreak that struck Alabama on April 27. Without a source of income, this mother worries about how she'll provide for her family — and how they'll recover.

Story and photos by Laura Reinhardt, World Vision U.S.
Published May 1, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

When deadly tornadoes tore through the American Southeast on April 27, it left behind countless heartbreaking stories of loss. Bonfilia Maldonado, 26, and her two daughters, Maria Guadalupe, 2, and Jimena, 4, put a human face on the tragedy.

"I still see the image of my house being there," says Bonfilia, sitting amid the ruins of where it used to be in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. "I can't believe what happened to us. We just had painted my little girl's room."

'It was everything to me'

Bonfilia's father bought the home when she was just 16. She purchased the house from him in 2005.

"It was everything to me," she says. "We were happy we had to pay just the lot rent — and now, we have to start from zero again."

The family now lives with Bonfilia's aunt. There are 10 people — six children and four adults — living in three bedrooms. The children are confused by this.

"They asked me, 'Where are we going to live now? Where's our toys?'" says Bonfilia. "I don't know what to say with them."

The storm that took nearly everything

Her husband was laid off of his job with a roofing company in Huntsville, Alabama. But when the tornado struck, his boss offered him a job again to help the family out.

Bonfilia was not so fortunate. The owners of the nursery she worked at lost the collection of trailers they owned, their houses, and the nursery. So now, she's out of work. Her bosses call to see what kind of help they're able to offer.

Bonfilia says the family needs clothes. "And, I guess, somebody to talk to," she says. She starts to cry as she says this.

Her younger daughter, Maria Guadalupe, is in her arms, leaning against her mother's shoulder. Slowly, she looks up at her mother and wipes away her mother's tear.

"It's just hard right now. We need everybody's support right now. We're all the same," adds Bonfilia. "It doesn't matter if we speak English or not. We need everybody right now."

A tragic aftermath

She recently showed her son the ruins of their home. "We had to show him where we used to live because he's asking why we can't go back home," she says.

World Vision is on the ground in Alabama, assessing the needs and providing initial assistance to survivors. Our top priority is low-income families and communities, who have fewest resources to recover from such a disaster.

In partnership with local churches and organizations, we'll continue to provide relief items to those living in areas hit hardest. Our facilities in North Texas are serving as the response headquarters for this emergency. The facilities include 56,000 square feet of space and 1,000 pallet spaces of relief, recovery, and building materials ready to ship.

Two ways you can help

Please pray for families like Bonfilia and her children, whose lives have been turned upside-down by the April 27 tornadoes. Pray that they would find peace, comfort, and healing in the wake of this devastating event.

Make a one-time donation to World Vision's U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your gift will help us respond quickly and effectively to life-threatening emergencies right here in the United States, like the recent storms and tornadoes in the South.