If you’ve been following recent international news, you’ve probably been hearing about the natural disasters in Guatemala. Unlike the United States, where we experience four seasons, Guatemala has only two– the rainy invierno (winter) from May to October, and the drier verano (summer), from November to April. During the rainy season, storms can sometimes be so severe that they cause dangerous floods and landslides. Tropical storm Agatha, which hit Central America from the Pacific Ocean on May 29th, was the first major storm this invierno, and it was one of the worst in years.
Luckily, weather technology gave plenty of warning before Agatha arrived, so authorities across Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras were able to evacuate 130,000 people and keep them safe during the storm. Though most escaped, 152 Guatemalans were killed, and many of those who made it to safety will return to find their houses, roads, bridges, and crops damaged or destroyed.
The storm came hard on the heels of the eruption of the volcán Pacaya (Pacaya volcano), located about 19 miles south of Guatemala City. The area around Pacaya—including Guatemala City, and the smaller cities of Antigua and Escuintla—was covered in volcanic ash. In some places, the ash was three inches thick, giving some kids in southern Guatemala the Central American version of a snow day. But while they might have appreciated the time off, the eruption also took its toll: 2,000 people had to leave their homes, many of which were damaged or destroyed, and two people were killed, including a TV reporter who was covering the eruption.
These two disasters have left Guatemala with some big problems. 9 out of every 10 roads have been affected by landslides, bridges and homes have been destroyed, and floods have washed away fields full of crops like maize and bananas. In some places food, clean water, and medicine supplies are dwindling. But despite the challenges, the nation is gearing up and moving forward. Classes resumed (article in Spanish) for most schools on June 7, and the Centro de Operaciones de Emergencia de Jalapa (Jalapa Emergency Operations Center), along with other aid groups, are bringing in food, clothing and other necessities to the areas most affected.
Of course, the damage can’t be fixed overnight, and it’s very likely that we’ll be a part of the cleanup once we get down there. The best thing we can do right now is create connections–by taking the amazing communities who refuse to be beaten by these struggles, and connecting them with the people and the resources that will get them back on their feet. Those people are you. Even a small act here can make a world of difference to a family down there, especially in the wake of a disaster like this. This philosophy is what drives us – it’s why we’re going, why we’ve chosen this destination, and why we’re asking for your support.
If you want to help put someone’s life back together, Habitat for Humanity (https://www.habitat.org/cd/giving/donate.aspx?link=294) and Global Giving (http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/guatemala-emergency-project/) are reputable organizations that will be there to help Central America recover and rebuild. With Global Giving, $10 buys food for an entire family, $50 provides a filter so that a family can have clean water, and $100 ensures that 25 children won’t go without the medicines they need.