A nearby country club, La Reunion, was completely destroyed as well and the guests escaped with their lives by a matter of a minutes because the management decided to evacuate again, literally minutes before the lahares came down.
The death toll is officially listed at around 300, but thousands are still missing and those that survived are, to this day, still in shelters surviving on aid given by private citizens, NGOs and the government. The affected area, called ground zero is otherworldly. Everything is covered in ash and the smell of death is everywhere. It’s impossible not to breathe it wherever you go.
Without knowing most of this and relying only on what she saw in the news and the information she got from a Guatemalan friend, Katherine Vandiest, from the Rotary Club of Clarksburg, California decided that she had to do something to help. Through her friend Uvaldo Perez she learned of a fire department in one of the affected towns that lost an ambulance so Her friend Uvaldo Perez scraped together funds and donations to buy a used Toyota pick up which was brought in by land through Mexico with Uvaldo’s help . She was able to donate it personally to the Volunteer Fire Department. Included in her first trip was fire equipment for the volunteer firemen . New Turnouts, knee pads and elbow pads, and helmets. All greatly appreciated
I learned of her incredible effort as I’m a member of the Rotary Club of Guatemala City and she wrote us telling us about what she was doing. I was intrigued, but most of all impressed and grateful that someone from so far away would come all the way to Guatemala and not just talk about helping but actually help with something as tangible and necessary as a pick up truck. Not just anybody will go to that trouble so I took it on myself to do whatever I could from my end to help her out.
While she was here, Katherine toured the area including ground zero and was deeply affected by what she saw. The suffering, poverty, destruction and death she saw was something way beyond what any average American will ever witness in their lifetime and she decided that a pick up truck wasn’t enough. She had to do more. So upon returning to the United States she contacted fire departments from all over Northern California asking for fire fighting gear as she saw that there was a serious need for it here. She managed to put together an amazing quantity of gear including fire shelters, fire fighting suits, oxygen tanks, masks, helmets, nozzles, etc. and all this is now on it’s way down to Guatemala. Once it gets here we will make sure it is given to the Volunteer Fire Departments in the area that need it the most.
But her effort still isn’t finished. She’s working on gathering enough donations to purchase a fire truck, or fire trucks if possible to continue helping however she can. The Volcan de Fuego disaster was, and is a terrible tragedy and the danger is still there. The volcano is still active and can erupt again at any moment. So anything that can help emergency responders do their job more effectively will not only be a great help, it will save lives. If only one life is saved because of a donation the effort will have been a success.
I WANT TO TAKE A REAL FIRE TRUCK DOWN TO THIS COMMUNITY AND I NEED YOUR SUPPORT
THANK YOU KATHERINE
Past President Rotary Club of Clarksburg
We will be collecting gas cards also to cover the cost of the diesel when we drive
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