Nurse Melissa Sharp (right) with Dori Stefaniw and Chris Thompson

Nurse Melissa Sharp (right) with Dori Stefaniw and Chris Thompson

Local nurse helps with earthquake recovery

Melissa Sharp lent a helping hand, and her medical expertise, to a small town in earthquake-devastated Ecuador.

On the evening of April 16, a deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Ecuador, killing over 600 people and injuring thousands more.

Canoa, a tourism town about the size of Golden, was one of the areas that was badly affected by the quake. It’s also home to the Coconut Hotel, a beachfront property that is co-owned by Goldenites Dori Stefaniw, Chris Thompson and Zach Pender.

Upon hearing that the area needed help from her friends, local nurse Melissa Sharp jumped at the opportunity to pitch in.

Sharp flew south on May 2 and joined in the relief efforts in the area.

“It was completely devastating, not even so much what I saw, but hearing the stories of what happened up until I got there was the worst part of all of it,” she said.

“Every person that I talked with had their own story of the earthquake…That was the most emotional part, hearing grown adults telling me…about the smell of death.”

A group of ex-pats in Canoa have created an organization called Canoa Reviva. Even just a couple of weeks after the devastating earthquake, the recovery for the oceanside community was in full swing.

“They really had passion in rebuilding their community in the right way and teaching the right values. Just putting back order into the community and respect and trust and education,” Sharp said.

The organization is also paying locals – totalling about 200 men and women by the time Sharp left the area on May 10 – for relief work in order to stimulate the economy.

“The men were being taught how to build these temporary bamboo structures so that they could go out to the community with these new skills and rebuild people’s homes,” Sharp said.

“At first when I got there, I thought that not one group of people could do this…but then I watched it happen.”

While her medical knowledge was clearly useful for the devastated town, Sharp also helped in the recovery by running the volunteer program. From a medical standpoint, she helped deal with all of the health supplies while completing assessments for chronic illnesses and making sure people have the proper medications that they need. She was also involved with re-enforcing basic, healthy practices such as hand washing.

“Everyone that I spoke with, their lives restarted that day,” she said.

Donations for Canoa’s recovery can be made online at

Coconut hotel shirts are also available, with proceeds going to the recovery, and can be purchased by contacting Sharp at