Reaching out: fires ravage sister city Valparaiso in Chile

WHEN someone needs a hand, friends are among the first to help out and now one of Orange’s partners is in need of support.

Valparaiso in Chile became a friendship city of Orange in 2012 and has just experienced the worst fire to ever hit the city.

The blaze has affected more than 10,000 people and destroyed more than 2000 homes.

Orange and Valparaiso’s friendship developed as a result of the Reading to Learn program, which assists children with reading and writing.

Lyndall Harrison and Philippa Hughes helped take that teaching methodology to Valparaiso and establish Orange’s relationship with the city.

 “It’s about equal expectations, the social equity part is very important in schools,” Ms Hughes, a teacher, said.

They travelled to Valparaiso in 2010 to speak at a conference about Reading to Learn. 

While they were there, Mrs Harrison and Ms Hughes visited schools and low socioeconomic areas around the city.

“It wasn’t the tourist experience at all, it was very confronting at times,” Ms Hughes said.  

The city is situated along a narrow coastline, which becomes extremely steep as it reaches the Andes mountain range. 

No stranger to natural disasters, Valparaiso is located on a fault line, so there are often earthquakes and tsunami warnings. 

“They’re used to those sort of disasters, but this [fire] is something else,” Mrs Harrison said.

Chair of the Orange Sister City Committee, councillor Chris Gryllis encouraged Orange residents to do whatever they could to assist Valparaiso following the disaster. 

“It’s very sad because it’s a very lovely city that unfortunately has two extremes, the destitute and well off. The fire is all in the destitute area,” he said. 

Any one in the community who wishes to assist Valparaiso or find out more information can contact Cr Gryllis on 0417 626 361. 

Mrs Harrison is available by emailing and Ms Hughes on

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