The Blog: Update 10

The Guatemalan government has just extended the “State of Emergency” for Escuintla, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango Departments for another month. We regret to report that there is still much confusion about what will happen to the over 3,500 people housed in temporary shelters. It appears that the survivors of San Miguel Los Lotes and El Barrio (Zone Zero) will receive a permanent house in the future. What will happen to all the others is yet not clear, but many have grown impatient with life in the crowded shelters and the uncertainty of their futures, so are returning to their homes in villages that had been evacuated. Those who remain in the shelters are being moved out of the schools which were being used as temporary shelters to a big area called “Finca La Industria” where tents have been set up (move 1) and temporary wooden shelters are being built here and in Alotenango (this will be move 2). Later, permanent houses will be built for the Zone Zero survivors and perhaps for others from villages that were forced to evacuate (move 3).

The Vamos Adelante team continues visiting the shelters and private homes where survivors are staying. The promoters take their time, let individuals talk, tell them their concerns and needs. A student from San Miguel Los Lotes, who had been supported by a Vamos Adelante scholarship for years, lost most of his family, including his parents and several siblings. Only he and his brother survived. This young man (just turned 18 years) studies in vocational school to become a mechanic. Vamos Adelante Director, Nina Jorgensen, recounts:

“He is obviously mourning the enormous loss of his family but is also coping with the loss of his tools and special shoes for school. He told me desperately, “I really need to get good grades in school, which I always promised my parents, but without tools I cannot do it.” We obviously told him not to worry at all and quickly planned a little shopping tour with him, where we bought him all needed school materials, uniform, shoes and some personal clothing he liked. He was very timid and only picked the most necessary. For some hours he actually enjoyed walking and talking with our promoters. He knows how much we appreciated his family and especially his strong and very caring mother. We will of course remain in very close contact to the young men.”

Getting kids back in school is a high priority. The children who remain in shelters began school this week in tent type temporary schools near Finca La Industria. Last Monday, school resumed in the village El Rodeo for children who returned to their homes there. However, Vamos Adelante has identified other students who have moved away to live with friends or family and who also lost their uniforms and school materials in the eruption. These kids are living too far from the Finca La Industria, where the free, governmental education is being provided, to attend. Many of these families have approached Vamos Adelante asking for support, so Vamos Adelante has begun selecting students for “emergency scholarships” to get these kids into private schools near to where they now live as soon as possible.

Further up the volcano, Vamos Adelante had a very busy week distributing emergency relief in the form of food, roofs, water filters and lights to those in the village of Ceylan. The rivers remain very unpredictable although we have now entered a weather pattern called the “canicula”, which is a period of no rain within the rainy season. The Vamos Adelante team knows to take advantage of these dryer days to make deliveries on the otherwise flooded and muddy roads.

Last Tuesday, 450 water filters arrived in Ceylan (photos below)! The families who received one were required to participate in a brief 1½ hour course to learn how to use it correctly and maintain/care for the filter. On Thursday, 1,000 tin sheets actually made it on an old — but powerful — truck all the way up to Ceylan (photos below). There, many roofs have been damaged by ash and small lava rocks causing a lot of leaking into the houses. You can hardly imagine the joy of receiving the tin sheets expressed by the 100 families that received new roofs in this first round of deliveries! World Central Kitchen decided to pause the daily food delivery for a week. Instead, on Friday, they sent gas stoves, equipment, and a person to train the local women to use these stoves. They also sent food so that a group of local women are now equipped to cook ~1,000 meals in Ceylan each day instead of transporting them such a far distance (photos below). The food supplies will still be purchased and sent to Ceylan from Escuintla, but this will now be done two times per week. Finally, Vamos Adelante has also been handing out solar lamps in rural communities around Fuego where the electricity fails frequently and to families who evacuated to family members’ homes in Escuintla.

Maide, the Vamos Adelante education promoter who lived in Zone Zero finally was able to move into a small house in Escuintla, which the project rented for her and her aunt until the new, permanent house they will be given is complete. Rocio, another education promoter, preferred to build a small tin sheet house for her family on the property of a pastor. Vamos Adelante purchased all of the building materials for her (photos below).

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