Disaster Recovery Stories

Tornado devastation leaves young mother and children with no home, few resources

Story/Photos by Laura Reinhardt / © World Vision

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.

Bonfilia Maldonado, 26, sits with her daughters, Maria Guadalupe, 2, and Jimena, 4 in front of the remains of their home following the deadly tornadoes that hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on April 27.

"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."

Bonfilia walks with her daughter through the wreckage of the property they once called 'home'.


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."

Ironically, the mailboxes in this area are still standing, but the houses to which they belong are destroyed.


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.