We want to express our thanks to all those who contributed to our fundraiser this last June for the victims of the volcano eruption in Guatemala. Two weeks after the volcano erupted we were able to take the money raised down with us and help several families as well as hospitals with your donations. Following is a detailed description of what we used the funds for.
The day we arrived in Guatemala we immediately made contacts in the affected areas with people who were volunteering at the fire department and were placing families who had lost their possessions in different shelters and homes. We assessed several families’ situations of loss and need by visiting with them to determine how we could best be of service.
We met a family of six who were relocated to the house of the local mayor. They had lost everything they had due to the eruption, including the jobs of the grandfather and his son. Later that day, we met with another family of 16 who had five children of elementary school age. None of the children had the required supplies to attend school. They also had a diabetic grandfather who needed medicine. The women of the family had no clothing that fit them. We observed as they cooked lunch for the sixteen members of the family on a one-burner camp stove. The last family we met was a family of 20 members who had 11 children. They had been given an empty house with cots and some blankets. We spoke with some of the women in the family and they told us they were so devastated by losing all their belongings but that they still had family in zone zero. They commented that the children were not used to living in a suburb, they needed to be outside in the fields and that it was hard for them all to stay inside the house. We offered help and their reply was “This isn’t our home, we just want to go back and live where we were.”
During the following two days, the Association organized rides to buy and transport goods from the city to the affected areas. The drive is about two hours and with all the supplies, we needed big, spacious cars with four-wheel drive. We were able to buy the following for these families:
Full grocery lists including: milk, oil, Ensure, water, butter, different meats, vegetables, diapers, toilet paper, etc.
Four lists of school supplies that included over 50 items for each child.
Underwear for 10 women
Medicine for diabetes, high blood pressure, cough and cold
Vitamins for children and adults
The fourth day in Guatemala we contacted a friend in Antigua who told us about a family of 10 whom he knew through work with the grandfather. Our friend asked us to come and meet them, to hear more about their situation. During our meeting, we found out they had lost their house, jobs, all personal belongings, but all family members had survived. The grandfather and one of his daughters recounted how the eruption materials reached their house and that they were able to flee just in time. One of the girls in the family, a 16 year-old named Ofelia, ran to save her 3 year-old neighbor as they were escaping. However, the hot gases and lava reached them and covered the little girl. Ofelia, had to let go
of the 3 year-old, and she relates, “She got too hot; I couldn’t hold her because I was burning my hand.” Ofelia’s feet and ankles were burned by lava and she was currently under care at the hospital. We immediately made plans to help the whole family with things they needed in the new place were they were living.
We would like to point out that our Association arrived three weeks after the disaster, and that before our arrival, the Guatemalan government had organized shelters for the homeless. Several other organizations were receiving donations of food, clothing, and other basic needs to take to these shelters. The donations given by the Guatemalan people to help their affected brothers and sisters were massive. There were hangars filled to the roof with things for the needy, and truck loads were being taken to the shelters.
When we arrived in Guatemala, shelters had been closed to the public and were being managed by government authorities and the military. The people in the shelters were not receiving the help that had been sent, and in some places they were not allowed to go out of the shelter in which they were stationed. To avoid any type of problem, our Association determined it would be best to reach families outside of the shelters, and outside of zone zero, where we would be allowed to make one-on-one contact.
On day four of our trip, we worked on obtaining a list of household items for Ofelia and her family. These items included blankets, shoes, clothes, some toys, a table and chairs, cooking pans and utensils and pantry items. Edinhart Realty and Design also donated money in cash to the family.
On day five, we were able to make a contact with a medical representative who took us to the public hospital in Escuintla. Here, we talked to the Head of the burned victim’s unit and gave them several boxes of medicine. We were also able to visit with various patients who were being treated for burns, and observed as nurses changed bandages on three young boys. The experience was heartbreaking and shocking. The doctor in charge of the unit at the time related to us how federal regulations made it hard to obtain pain medication, as well as proper treatment for the victims. We left the hospital with a broader view of the situation, as well as a great feeling of duty to do keep helping the victims. We are currently working on finding special beds for drainage and sterile bandage changes for the burned unit. The process is long due to shipping regulations and paperwork to transport special hospital beds into the country.
On our last two days in the country we delivered all the things we had bought for the families each met. We had help from family and friends who let us pack their trucks and vans with all of the supplies. We traveled to Amatitlan and Escuintla early in the morning. We visited with two families in Amatitlan and delivered what we purchased for each of them. We also learned that one of the families we had visited on the first days, had decided to move back closer to ground zero and to keep looking for their missing relatives.
Later that day we made a stop at a meetinghouse of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Escuintla, where they had a shelter set up for 150 people. The church members and other community volunteers had cooked, cleaned and entertained the refugees every day since the disaster. We were able to help by giving activity books to the children, making long lasting name tags for volunteers, and
by delivering cleaning supplies and medications to their pharmacy. It was amazing to see the work of the volunteers that day. 20 women prepared lunch for 200 people and served them all. We also observed their afternoon of exercise and entertainment provided by the State University and the Red Cross. We conversed with the medical personnel and were able to give them some of our donated medicine. We loved being able to share time with other volunteers in the real spirit of giving and aiding those in need.
At the end of the day we travelled close to ground zero to deliver supplies to the last family. Ofelia was so happy when we gave her and her family the things we had purchased for them.
The day was long and productive and we were beyond grateful for all the friends, contacts and family members that offered their time and resources in benefit of the people affected by the volcano eruption.
We know that much is yet to be done and would like to express our sincere thanks to all who donated, friends, family, Edinhart Realty and Design, Melisa Spolini, The Fresno Bee, and all those who continue to support us with your prayers and love as we carry on our service.
check out our feature in the Fresno Bee Newspaper!