Sunday, June 6, 2010

Crisis in Guatemala:
Saturday morning the pouring rain and the hurricane warning made us all nervous. We got in supplies of extra water and propane-gas and made sure that we had enough food for a week at least.
This was our big concern….it hadn’t been raining enough, we thought, to worry about evacuating but we did get our important papers together and made sure that they were in a suitcase.
Around we received a call from Aqua Escondido that Ernesto and his family had received a huge amount of mud into their home and they needed help. The road was already blocked and we told him there was nothing we could do. Ernesto is a paraplegic and is in a wheel chair. He was very scared.
We told him to move out, stay with family and to hire some people to start digging the mud out and as soon as we could we would get to him and pay for the workers. We still have not
We organized workers to dig out the mud in front of our pre-school. It was dirty wet work and it went on for hours. Julio and Gloria were helping to evacuate houses that were in danger of flooding
At 4pm we realized that our own houses were in danger.
Several of the Mayan Families employees had the same problem, Gloria, Julio, Sandra, Juan, Letti and Amelia all live close to the river.
Several of us rushed back to Mayan Families and started evacuating. The house next door belonging to Manuel, Estella and their 7 children was in imminent danger. We rushed to rescue as much of their possessions as we could. We got nearly everything out and watched in dismay and disbelief as it fell into the water. Then back to Mayan Families…..we were blessed to have help.
A man from San Jorge came down with his pick up and his two children we sponsor. He worked in the pouring rain taking many loads to the pre-school were we were unloading everything. He refused to take any payment in return for this work.
Just as it was getting dark, the wall fell away and the river claimed our bathroom, guestroom and flight of stairs. For you who have visited it is outside the house on the far corner.
We were all very nervous, not knowing if the bridge would stand up so that we would be able to cross back. The other bridges had already either fallen away or been damaged and were unusable.
Thanks to the US. Engineer Corp who built this bridge in the 40’s, it is the only bridge that has consistently stood up to the wildness of this river and connected the two sides of the town.
The noise of the river, boulders, trees, debris and the crash of the buildings falling was unbelievable. While the damage is not as great in Panajachel as Hurricane Stan in 2005, the river was higher and wilder. It was frightening.
Just when we thought we would not be able to get everything out of the house…..another father of a sponsored student and five other men and women drove up and said that they had come to help us.
The father of the sponsored student had borrowed a large truck from where he worked and made his way to help us.
In the pouring rain all these people helped us evacuate.
I had nothing to offer them in exchange. I couldn’t even find my purse to pay for the gas. They told me that they didn’t want anything, they were happy to come and help us as we have given them so much help. It was very humbling.
Gloria, Julio, Juan, Sandra, Amelia all evacuated as much as they could from their homes and then came to help Mayan Families.
We were all drenched, muddy and exhausted by the end of the day. We stayed at Patti’s apartments taking up all the beds, couches and floor spaces available.
On Sunday, we organized as much as we could, sorted donations etc.
Monday we were in action. Well, most of us, I fell down some wet steps and sprained my ankle badly. Since then I have been confined to a lounge chair keeping off my foot. We do not have internet in the new house and so this has been even more frustrating. I know there are lots of emails and we will try and get to them and answer them as soon as possible.
Despite having to evacuate the offices of Mayan Families and move everything to another location we have been able to respond to the crisis and help people.
Since Monday, thanks to your generous donations we have been able to distribute food and clothing.
There is such a need here. So many people have lost their homes, all their belongings. So many people are without any food to eat.
Then there is the terrible sadness of people who have lost loved ones when mud slides devastated their homes.
Yesterday we arranged an operation for a young woman who has a badly damaged shoulder. The social worker at the hospital had called us asking if we could help her. The family had lost their home and had nothing left and could not afford to pay for the medications and materials necessary for the operation.
The operation was urgent otherwise she stood the chance, we were told by the doctors, of losing the mobility in her arm.
When we sent our case worker, Eddy to the hospital he was very saddened to learn that not only had she lost her home, but had suffered the tragedy of losing her three daughters,12, 9 and 7yrs old. She has a little girl 5 yrs old and a son 1 ½ yrs old that were saved. The father is also in the hospital with injuries suffered when the house collapsed.
In the bed next to her is her mother in law, a 70yr old woman, who lost her husband, an adult son and her home.
Both of them are very battered from injuries received in the storm.
We have been feeding approx. 800 people a day in the villages above Solola. There has been no help from the govt. arrive as of yet but we are hoping some came today. There was a health clinic set up quickly and they were vaccinating people against cholera.
The Mayan Families crew and volunteers were exhausted after giving out food in these areas. They came back feeling that they needed to go back the next day and give more food because there were so many people in need of food. The desperation of the people receiving the food was haunting for all of them.
Today we are in San Antonio giving out food and clothing.
Thank you for the donations that you have sent. This is enabling us to give food to the families. Thank you for the donations of clothing, blankets etc that we were fortunate enough to have on hand. The Medrano-Zuleta shipment arrived just in time to be able to help a lot of people.
We are in real need of clothing, boys jeans and pants, jackets, and lots of shoes in all sizes.
We have given out all our baby clothes and blankets.
We need funds to be able to buy second hand traditional clothing for the families who have lost all their possessions.
We need funds to be able to pay rent on people who are living in houses that are full of mud and with walls that have fallen down.
Today, Eddy visited one of these houses with volunteer, Vanessa. The family is living very close to the river, the house is full of mud, several walls are missing but they have nowhere else to go. Eddy told me that the smell was overwhelming, that it was hard to breath in the house for the mold. The little girl already has a bad cough from being there.
This is going to be the situation with many of the families that we work with.
Our “Garden House” that we were renting as a shelter for two single mother families has been deemed unfit to live in as it has the risk of a huge mud slide coming down on it. The two families are now living in the emergency shelter in the gymnasium in town. We need to find a room to rent for them and need funds to be able to put them somewhere safe. Neither family can afford to pay rent.
There are so many sad stories……the staff at Mayan Families has been amazing. Despite having suffered great losses for many of them, they have been working day and night since this disaster happened.
17yr old Glendy who lost her mother last year to cancer, also has had her house badly undermined. The river now is at her doorstep. She and her brothers have now rented a room.
Julio and Gloria, Juan and his family, Letti and her family have moved out of their home, it is too dangerous to live there, the same with Amelia. They are now all living in wooden shacks that they have hastily constructed on the land that the grandmother is a caretaker for.
Juan lost the land and house he was building. He had borrowed money to be able to construct the house. He now owes a lot of money on something that doesn’t exist.
This will be a sad story that will be repeated by many others.
The crew has just returned from giving out food in San Antonio. They are tired and sore from bouncing back in boat that had no seats.
San Antonio is devastated. Lime is strewn over the areas where people have died . People’s possession are lying forlornly in the mud. A man asked for help to find the bodies of a woman and two children. The townspeople have given up. The mayor said that they are exhausted from digging. But this man is in deep grief and wants the bodies of his family. Tomorrow we sending a group of 10 volunteers to help try and dig for the bodies.
We need lots of boys clothing for older boys 4-12yrs old. We need lots of shoes.
Tomorrow morning we will begin packing bags of food again. These bags will be going to the people of Panajachel who are in need, who have lost their homes. They will be distributed the same day.
Sunday we will pack more food.
As long as you can help us with donations, we will be packing food to give to families in need.
The people of Guatemala are in desperate need of help.

A Volcano erupts spewing ash, closing the Airport, Tropical Storm Agatha devistates Guatemala, a new sink hole is found in Guatemala City that swallows a 3 story building and on June 4th we just experienced a small earthquake!

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