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by Mark Ely

On July 6, representatives from the John Wesley School delivered more relief supplies to 32 families we identified in June as still needing support.  Supplies were received by 12 families in Pocohil and 20 families in Patulup.  Each family received the following:

* 5 bags of Maseca tortilla mix
* 4 cans of black beans
* 9 pounds of pasta
* 4 pounds of rice
* 6 pounds of sugar
* 3 pounds of oatmeal
* 3 pounds corn porridge
* 12 soup packets
* 12 rolls of toilet paper
* 2 pounds of salt
* 1 bag of candy
* 1 package bouillon
* 96 single-serving bags of water.

Things are improving slowly, but with the rainy season well underway, it is hard for these families to work what remains of their property.  Many areas are still without a reliable water supply.

We are looking into the possibility of rebuilding homes once the rainy season ends. Check back for updates.

See our Flickr site for more images.

by Mark Ely 

I just returned from visiting our program communities that were affected by the Tropical Storm Agatha.  I want to thank everyone who has donated so far towards our relief efforts.  In every village we went to, we were told that Pura Vida relief supplies were the first of any kind to arrive after the storm. 

I have included some photos below; there are many more on our Flickr site

Here is a detailed status update for the heavily damaged areas where we have scholarship programs:

Paquixic

700 people in the Paquixic area are now living in shelters due to either the destruction of their homes or the risk of further slides.  Water lines are broken in many places, so water must be carried in from great distance.  Schools are still closed. 

I am very sad to report the death of a Pura Vida scholarship student from Paquixic. Margarita (GU-PAQ-0007) and her family were eating dinner when the slide hit. Margarita was closest to the back wall, and was trapped when it fell.  Members of her extended family lived in two other homes that were swept away by the same landslide.  

Site of Margarita's home

Site of Margarita's home

I visited the site of the slide with Amilcar Solórzano and Fausto Natareno, our scholarship program coordinators.  The devastation at the site made it hard to believe that anyone could have survived.  In each of the homes, however, a small child was lost. 

From Paquixic we traveled to Pocohil, where the survivors are staying with other family members.  Margarita’s mother had both of her legs broken; another relative, Diego, the head of the extended family, had his jaw wired shut due to injury, and was unable to talk with us.  Tomasa, a vendor in the Chichi market I have known for 10 years, lost her baby and has injuries to her legs, head, and internal bleeding.  The family was physically battered by the slide. 

Margarita's family

Margarita's family

We are looking into the possibility of rebuilding, but it is a complicated issue.  Due to general instability, reconstruction is not advisable on the land where the original homes were.  Unfortunately, the family has no other land.  We are currently waiting until Diego’s jaw has recovered so we can discuss options with him. 

 What your donations have provided for: 

  • We left funds with Margarita’s family to help with food, clothing, and medicine (donated by Margarita’s sponsor in the U.S.)

Pocohil

12 homes in Pocohil were totally destroyed, 11 were damaged, and 17 are untouched but at risk.  Pura Vida scholarship students live in three of the at-risk homes.  6 families are currently sheltered in area churches; water and food are still needed. 

In Pocohil there were much fewer deaths due to the action of an individual who investigated the first slide and then got in his car with a loudspeaker to warn the village.  Most homes were evacuated before the bigger slides hit. 

The Guatemalan government estimates that it will be 5 years before it can offer assistance to rebuild homes.  The Methodist Church of Guatemala is assessing the situation.  Pura Vida is waiting to confirm the long-term response by the Guatemalan Government and the Methodist Church of Guatemala before proceeding with any rebuilding plans.  In the meantime, we photographed the families whose homes were completely destroyed. If you are interested in helping us rebuild, please contact me. 

Newly homeless family in Pocohil

Newly homeless family in Pocohil

What your donations have provided: 

  • We have scheduled a second delivery of relief supplies for the 12 families who have lost their homes in Pocohil.

Patulup

Patulup I (the upper village) saw a slide that destroyed 3 homes and put many more at risk.  7 families (67 people) from that area are now living in a temporary municipal shelter.  The local water line is broken in at least 10 places, and will take months to repair. There is virtually no work available. Many crops were lost by the various slides, and it is now too late to re-plant.  Many shelter residents work what is left of their land during the day, returning at night to sleep in the safety of the shelter. 

Shelter in Patulup I

Shelter in Patulup I

In Patulup II, 13 families (65 people) are living in 2 shelters. A single massive slide took out 6 homes.  Like Pocohil, fortunately, most of the homes had been evacuated when the slide hit.  For every home that was destroyed, many more are at risk.  This is the very beginning of the rainy season in Guatemala; it is very unusual to start with the ground so saturated. 

Massive slide in Patulup II

Massive slide in Patulup II

The home of Pura Vida scholarship student Laura (GU-PAT-0002) was swept away in a slide.  We visited the site, and there was pretty much nothing left – all personal belongings were buried.  The family was left with only the clothes on their backs.  During our visit a neighbor boy pointed to the far corner of the property, and told me in K’iche that the family pig had been kept there. 

Pastor Juan Ixtan with Laura and her family

Pastor Juan Ixtan with Laura and her family

We met with the residents of the larger shelter in Patulup II, listening to their most urgent requests.  It turns out that many adobe homes that were not destroyed have been thoroughly soaked, making for a damp and cold environment. One of the families we talked with in the shelter had suffered the death of their baby from pneumonia just days before.  Two of their other children are now showing the same symptoms. 

What your donations have provided: 

  • We scheduled a second delivery of relief supplies for the 20 families in shelters in Patulup I and II.
  • We left funds with Pastor Juan Ixtan to buy 24 blankets for the shelter, which is very cold.
  • We left funds with Pastor Juan Ixtan to get the two children with pneumonia symptoms to the hospital and to pay for medications.
  • We left funds with Laura’s family to help with food and clothing (funds were donated by her sponsor in the U.S.)

Chontala

7 families lost substantial portions of their crops (apple, plums, and peaches), including the families of 3 Pura Vida scholarship students.  There was no substantial damage to homes in Chontala proper. 

A home was completely destroyed, however, where the road to Chontala joins the paved highway.   Jeronimo Mateo, our program leader for the area, is a friend of the family that was affected.  Their property included a home and associated tienda; the tienda provided a milling service for corn.  If you’ve traveled with us on a work trip to Chontala, you’ve almost certainly seen children waving from the tienda as our bus passed by.  

Pastor Jeronimo Mateo dismayed by the destruction

Pastor Jeronimo Mateo dismayed by the destruction

The slide caught the family by surprise: the parents were in the kitchen, and the children in the tienda.  The tienda was buried to a level of 8 feet, and 3 children were unable to escape.  The parents and the other children were able to dig themselves out. 

The immediate needs are for temporary shelter, food, and clothing.  They are living with another local family, but it is extremely tight.  As with most of the slide victims, they have only the clothes on their backs. 

Surviving family members

Surviving family members

What your donations have provided: 

  • The Trinity UMC Youth Group is working in Chontala this week.  On Tuesday we took up a collection which was enough to provide materials to build a temporary shelter for the family affected by the slide. 
  • Pura Vida provided funds for food and clothing.

How to Help

Please contact us if you are interested in sponsoring the reconstruction of a home.  We have no finalized plans at this time, but I would like to at least start a list of interested donors. 

In the meantime, relief efforts will likely continue for months.  To make a donation, please follow the link below.  

http://www.puravida.org/participate_donate.htm

[ View more photos ]

Relief supplies reached Chontala on Thursday, delivered by the staff of the John Wesley School.

JWS teachers bring purified water to Chontala

Amilcar Solorzano delivering food.

Jeronimo Mateo, our program leader in Chontala.

Our first load of relief supplies were delivered Wednesday morning in Patzibal.  The Methodist Church in Patzibal is serving as our distribution center for the villages of Paquixic, Paxot, Patulup, and Pocohil, which are currently difficult to access.  Our program leaders from those communties (Tomas Ramos, Tomas Riquiac, Juan Ixtan, and Angel Salvador) met Amilcar Solorzano, Fausto Natareno, and teachers from the John Wesley School to receive food and water.  The leaders returned to their villages to distribute the supplies.  Items distributed included purified water, black beans, pasta, and rice.

Loading water for Pocohil at the John Wesley School

Angel loading water for Pocohil at the John Wesley School

Patzibal

Fausto Natareno delivering food in Patzibal

Pastor Juan Ixtan in Patzibal to pick up supplies for Patulup

Today our staff will attempt to reach Chontala to distribute supplies there.  After talking with Amilcar yesterday, it appears that these distributions may need to be repeated on a weekly basis, at least for a while.

Most homes in Paquixic have been evacated due to unstable conditions and lack of potable water.  Many people are sick from drinking contaminated water.  Village residents are now temporarily living in churches in Chichicastenango.  Pastor Tomas Ramos of Paquixic and his entire family is living in the Methodist Church in Chichi along with 40 others.

The initial delivery of supplies was mich appreciated.  Angel was up until midnight last night distributing food in Pocohil.  As of today we have raised $754 towards general relief supplies; our immediate target is $1,000, but this will probably grow.  Please consider joining us in this effort by making a donation now.

Getting water from broken pipes

Getting water from broken pipes in Patulup

Destroyed home in Patulup

Destroyed home in Patulup

Shelter in Patulup

Shelter in Patulup

[ See more photos on our Flickr site ]

Tropical Storm Agatha hit the Western Highlands of Guatemala over the weekend.  The storm caused major landslides.  Here are the most recent numbers from the Guatemalan disaster authority:

  • 109 killed
  • 62 missing
  • 23 injured
  • 27,560 affected
  • 37,000 living in shelters
  • 20,000 still living in possible danger
Paxot

Resident of Paxot

Pura Vida scholarship programs are located in some of the areas affected.  Here is what we know so far about our communities:

  • Camanchaj: Not significantly affected.
  • Chontala: Homes lost to landslides; widespread loss of crops and orchards; 2 scholarship families suffered damage to their homes; access to the area is difficult.
  • Lemoa: Not significantly affected.
  • Paquixic: Hardest-hit of our program communities; homes and fields lost to landslides; one scholarship family lost their home; no access to the area possible at this time.
  • Patulup: Homes lost to landslides; widespread loss of crops; 3 scholarship families lost their homes and crops.
  • Paxot: 5 homes lost to landslides; no scholarship students affected; no access to the area possible at this time.
  • Pocohil: 10 homes lost to landslides; widespread loss of crops; no scholarship students affected.
  • Santa Cruz: Not significantly affected.
  • Xela: Not significantly affected.

If your sponsored student was affected by this disaster, we have contacted you already.

Pocohil

Destroyed home in Pocohil

We will be working with our Guatemalan staff this week to determine what the immediate needs are and how they can best be met.  We know that the provision of food and water will be necessary almost immediately.  We have established a fund to assist with relief in the communities in which we work.  If you would like to help provide relief, please make a donation.

Once past the short-term needs, we will begin considering long-term measures such as rebuilding homes.  We will keep you informed.

Paxot

Paxot

[ See more photos on our Flickr site ]