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Friday, 29 June 2018 00:00

Solidarity with the victims of Volcán de Fuego, Guatemala

Although the news on the eruption of the volcano in Guatemala seems to have extinguished the fire of the volcano, it is urgent to enliven our solidarity to collaborate in the reconstruction. The eruption left 112 fatalities, 55 wounded, more than 200 missing and 1.7 million people affected, according to official data. 

Members of the Teresian Association relate the experience, especially for the most affected populations.

The eruption of the volcano in Guatemala shocked the people of Guatemala, given the dimension of the tragedy caused by the eruption, with the descent at high speed of volcanic material. How much pain and suffering!

One of the villages, San Miguel los Lotes, was buried by sand, ash and gases at high temperatures. There are still no exact data on how many people died. The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) estimates 110, but the people who managed to save their lives continue to search for their relatives who were buried by the volcanic material. There are 197 persons reported missing. According to official data, 3,557 survivors, out of the 12,784 that were evacuated after the eruption, remain housed in 17 shelters. It is estimated that the destroyed homes are 186 and 750 are at risk, and about 1.7 million people have been affected.

We carry children, young people, and burned adults very much in our hearts. Some have died, others are in the process of recovery, and those who have suffered more severe burns have been moved to Mexico and the United States. More than ten thousand children are not in schools because school buildings are being used as storage centers or shelters.


In the midst of this situation, the solidarity and generosity of people and churches are evident as they dedicate themselves to donate food, medicines and clothing, as well as helping in whatever is needed, and they encourage and give hope to many. The generous dedication of the rescuers, even at the risk of their lives, is a reality and a symbol of human greatness when we want the good and save the lives of others. The international solidarity of the neighboring countries of America and of other continents is also a reason for gratitude and hope.

The risk continues. With heavy rains, lahars are falling with material of the pyroclastic flows deposited in the volcano and in the ravines, putting many communities at risk. Some people are isolated. The alert from the authorities in charge of disaster prevention is permanent. It would have been good if they had alerted the population before the entire area was ravaged! Early warning failed. How many families could have been saved!

The volcano has always been there and, with varying frequency and intensity, has erupted at times. There are studies on the risk for the communities that live on the volcano's surroundings. However, there has been a lack of territorial planning for the poor to live in safe places, this being the main cause of so much injustice, inequality and exclusion. The villages affected by the tragedy had high poverty rates. Vulnerability and poverty feed on each other.

The Teresian Association, in the capital city and in Quetzaltenango, has joined the solidarity efforts of all the people, bringing donations to some collection center or opening our doors. This has been the case of Teresa Martín de Quetzaltenango school and Avemaría School in Guatemala, where members of the Association work.

In Quetzaltenango the entire educational community rushed to collaborate with food, clothing, water and cleaning materials. For one week the students, in groups, spent one hour a day organizing materials to facilitate their distribution. Several families offered transportation and, in coordination with Casa Noj Cultural Center, help was brought to the affected families. We lived a very rich experience of fraternity and caring for others, putting in our grain of sand and joining forces with other Associations.

Avemaría School has welcomed four children from the same family, victims of the volcano, who arrived in the area where the school is after the evacuation.  We gave them scholarships and psychological care.  Students organized themselves to collect food and taook it to one of the most affected villages.

On Saturday, June 9, at night we joined the march of torches, organized by different groups and led by students from the University of San Carlos, to show our solidarity with the victims of the disaster and demand that the government assume its responsibility honestly and transparently in the construction of houses to locate affected families, so that they can rebuild their lives. The government is planning the construction and relocation of people who, in addition to housing and land to cultivate, will need psychological support.

We trust in the ability of people to get through difficult and traumatic situations, we trust in human kindness and generosity, we trust in the strength that comes from the God of Life to make this world and our reality a better place for all. 

Thank you, Teresian Association, for your affection, closeness and solidarity, which are balm for the heart in the face of so much pain! "Life can do more"! Many calls ... many messages ... Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! 

Finally we want to tell you that InteRed Foundation has opened an account for all the people who want to show solidarity by contributing monetary donations. This is what Director María del Mar Palacios has told us.  The account number of NGO InteRed for donations destined to the reconstruction of the damage caused the eruption of Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala is the following:

Banco Santander
IBAN ES7400490001542210022331

Teresian Association, Guatemala.