Re-purposed earthquake tents

International Aid Tents – From Post-Earthquake Tent City to Traveling Circus

“Sometimes by not knowing the truth we make incorrect judgments about situations”
— Sunday Adelaja


What happened to tents from Ecuador’s post-earthquake tent cities?

After the April 16, 2016 devastating 7.8 Ecuador earthquake, international aid organizations raced to Ecuador, assisting those who lost everything. Aid organizations set up tent camps where families who lost their homes lived, some for a few weeks, some for many months, a few for more than a year.

As Ecuador recovered from the earthquake, families, one by one, vacated the tents and moved into new homes.

A second life with the circus

When the circus came to Puerto Lopez recently, performers set up their own tent housing behind the big tent. Two of the tents looked familiar. On closer inspection, they were from the tent camps like those my friend Pastor Gary Vance visited after the earthquake.

Former post-earthquake tents now in circus
Tent behind circus big top in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Former post-earthquake tents now in circus

The two light blue tents on the far right are from post-earthquake tent camps

Gary is the founder of Tears2Water and installed water filters at many of those camps to provide life saving clean drinking water (read my previous posts about his incredible efforts here and here).

The tents at the circus had come from a Chinese aid organization who came to Ecuador’s aid in 2016. See the tents in the background in the photo below – they are identical to those traveling with the circus.

Aid tents in post-earthquake camp
See the tents in the background? The circus has two now.
Photo courtesy of Gary Vance, Tears2Water


Reading the tent situation incorrectly

A visitor in town saw those tents, too and later laughed as she said “Did you see the circus brought tents with Chinese written on them? Why would they do that?” When she learned the tent origins, she went back to the circus to take photos of the tents. Thankfully, it was the closest she came to seeing tent camps during her Ecuador travels since former earthquake homeless families now have places to call home.

From post-earthquake tent city to traveling circus

How did the circus end up with these tents? They purchased them. Once the tent camps no longer needed them, they sold tents to the public. Nice to see the tents recycled.

A tent like that would be handy if I still lived in the US, where I did a lot of tent camping. Would you buy a tent like these if they were for sale in your area?

I am a US Expat in Ecuador. I grew up on a Minnesota farm, worked in IT in California's Silicon Valley, then moved to a coastal Ecuador fishing village. My goal is to share Ecuador with you, one snippet at a time. Topics include attractions, compassion, ecotourism, Ecuador products, everyday Ecuador, and flora and fauna. Please let me know what you would like to read more about!


  • Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Emily – that's great the tents are being re-cycled … I bet they're of value to the many who buy them for use in a variety of ways in Ecuador after the earthquake usage. The Tears to Water project is special … and I hope the idea is being taken up and spread around …

    I'm not into camping any more … well perhaps in Africa – cheers Hilary

    • Emily Bloomquist

      Hi Hilary, I also hope the Tears2Water idea is spreading. There are certainly a lot of locations in the world that could use clean drinking water. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting 🙂

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