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Fuego Eruption Emergency Relief

$62,399 of $70,000 goal

Raised by 441 people in 6 months
Created June 4, 2018
On Sunday,  June 3 the Fuego Volcano in Guatemala erupted, wiping out several communities in the path of the falling lava and ash. 

We are raising money for the families in Los Lotes, El Rodeo and other neighboring communities located in the foothills of Fuego that were in the path of the eruption and lost everything. Specifically, we will put the funds collected toward the following to help the affected families to survive these immediate days after the eruption and to begin rebuilding their homes:

- food
- flashlights and batteries
- shoes
- personal hygiene items
- blankets
- furniture (tables, beds, chairs)
- basic kitchen supplies
- tin sheets for roof and house construction & building supplies
- toys for small children

These funds will be received by Amigos de Vamos Adelante ( http://www.vamosadelanteproject.org/) and then immediately put in the hands of the Foundation Vamos Adelante
( http://www.vamosadelante.org/) - both are 501(c)(3) organizations. Vamos Adelante has served the affected communities for more than 20 years. Listen to Director, Nina Jorgensen, report on the catastrophe during an interview with Jerome McDonnell at WBEZ Chicago on Monday, June 4: 

https://www.wbez.org?utm_source=link&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=Web-Share&replayer_show_id=d9286ffc-12ef-4f14-b298-823adaf88081&segment_id=868ca419-9ef9-4f58-b20a-7dd5be26d126

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It has been nearly four months since Fuego erupted, causing extensive damage. In memory of those who lost their lives that June day and in recognition of those who continue suffering great losses, flowers and candles and quaint ceremonies were held in San Miguel Los Lotes on September 3. In the background, three bulldozer machines continued digging for human remains. September 15 was Guatemala's Independence Day and a march was held by survivors from nearby communities. Many emotional moments were lived and shared when they filed into the village. Also, on September 28, the day of San Miguel was recognized with a march through what is left of the San Miguel Los Lotes village followed by a mass.

During the first week of September, the surviving families from San Miguel Los Lotes reached an agreement with the authorities that the government would grant an extension to permit continuing the search for missing bodies for 20 more days. This has since been extended. Bodies do continue to be found and even identified. Although no date is set, there has been word of anthropologists entering the scene soon to assist the process of finding and identifying more bodies. There are also discussions around possibly deciding to fence the destroyed villages off as a protected area, but no plans are yet certain.

On Saturday, September 22, 8 more people were buried. Over 200 bodies remain to be identified. The official number of people who have disappeared are 256 but families say the real number is much higher.

Nearly all of the survivors from San Miguel Los Lotes have now been moved to temporary wooden homes where they will stay until permanent houses have been built and are available. This could take 6 months .... to 2 years. The families from El Barrio will be the next in line for temporary wooden homes. The government has finally begun distributing funds to support the families from San Miguel Los Lotes and El Barrio. They have been handing out ~Q 3500 (~ USD $480) to families, yet some are still waiting to receive this support.

Vamos Adelante continues to support these families by distributing solar lamps (and providing brief training sessions on how to use and care for them). The families very much appreciate the lamps as the central solar power system in the temporary homes is turned off at certain hours and some houses still are not connected to the central power system at all.

Vamos Adelante also continues to hand out kitchen kits to the women. Being able to cook for themselves and their own families means returning to “normal” again: to sit together and have a cup of home-brewed coffee, talking about the latest events, about the past or just chatting with visiting family and friends. This seemingly-simple daily ritual has so much importance and helps to provide a bit more of a home feeling. For now, these families are cooking in the community kitchens in the temporary housing. Although they are must too small, more will be built so that families are better able to cook for themselves soon.

The Vamos Adelante promoters visit the temporary homes frequently to see how the families are doing. Several families have asked about the possibility of obtaining scholarships for their children in 2019 (the school year begins in January). This demand has prompted Vamos Adelante to plan to expand the education program for the next academic year.

The volcano is rather active and the rainy season is now in its strongest month meaning that much water and lahars are coming down almost daily. The Ruta Nacional 14, the big highway from Antigua to Escuintla that was partially rebuilt following the eruption, is open with reduced hours (from 6am to 2pm) but often remains completely closed due to the strong rains, volcanic activity and high risks of bridges collapsing, slides, etc. connected with these conditions.

During the first week of October, Vamos Adelante will visit a housing project built by Construcasa, a Dutch NGO that Vamos Adelante has partnered with to build good, solid homes over the years. After evaluating this project, Vamos Adelante may consider helping several families build new homes.

Vamos Adelante thanks all of you who have donated profoundly for your quick and most generous help following the eruption! During the coming months and years, with your support, Vamos Adelante is committed to supporting families who live off of their small plots of land and are affected by Fuego, particularly those in the highest villages on the slopes of the volcano.
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The canicula is over and rainy season has resumed. As you likely saw on the news, lahars are coming down the side of Fuego again. From Monday to Tuesday last week, the back route through riverbeds into otherwise cutoff communities was destroyed in three different places. The only way to get to the villages served by Vamos Adelante was via Siquinala, where big machines were able to temporarily fix the riverbed crossing until more rain and hail surprised everybody a few hours later. Experts anticipate more big lahars will come down with the heavy rains expected. August and September are the months with the strongest rain in this region. In October, some storms will likely pass through, but then it should hopefully calm down and Vamos Adelante will be able to resume normal activities.

The Vamos Adelante base in Zapote remains closed until the situation with the volcano improves and it is safe to cross the rivers again. For now, the Project is carrying on with typical activities at the new, temporary office in Ceylan. Two Vamos Adelante education promoters continue visiting the shelters in Escuintla to see how the project can help families and also see students who have Vamos Adelante scholarships and now live in the shelters.

The construction on the big road between Antigua and Escuintla continues and rapid progress is being made rebuilding the bridge. It appears that the main highway (Ruta Nacional 14) between Alotenango and Escuintla will be opened to light traffic tomorrow, on August 14, 2018, during hours when it is not raining. Two metal bridges have been built where the Las Lajas bridge once was before being totally destroyed on June 3rd (and made famous by a video of it being taken out during the eruption that was widely circulated on the web).

Survivors of the disaster continue looking for their missing family members in San Miguel Los Lotes, but the government gives very limited permission. Some are protesting this, saying they will block the road if they are not allowed to continue searching. Hopefully a peaceful solution will be found.

Two weeks ago people from San Miguel Los Lotes were moved from schools and other quickly-improvised living spaces to temporary wooden structures in Escuintla. Each structure hosts up to 4 families and each family has 18 square meters. Beds, a table, some chairs, and water filter are included/provided with the structure. The wooden structures look fine and people are happy and thankful to have some privacy. The ventilation is a bit limited in the houses and it gets very warm. The bathrooms and facilities for doing laundry are communal. A common kitchen area will hopefully be built so that the families can cook for themselves.

Vamos Adelante is handing out basic kitchen kits to the families from Zone Zero. The centralized solar light system in the temporary housing is good but not individually controlled, so Vamos Adelante will purchase 200 solar lamps to distribute to these families. Supposedly 1,000 permanent houses are still in the plans to be built, and the the San Miguel Los Lotes and the El Barrio people will be prioritized in their assignment. When the construction will start is not yet known as there has been continued trouble with price quotations for building materials by several companies.

What will happen to all the others who remain in the shelters from evacuated high risk areas is uncertain. Most likely, they will be left with no option but to return to their villages despite the risk, though no official statement has been made.

In Ceylan, Vamos Adelante has resumed it's lunch program, providing warm meals five times per week to 150 individuals using the kitchen set up by World Central Kitchen.

The crops were almost entirely destroyed throughout Ceylan. Food prices have already gone up, so the people will try to plant corn in the middle of August, taking their chances that it will not be destroyed again by continuing activity from the volcano and rain storms. It takes about a good month for the corn to grow, but most think it seems better to try than not to have anything at all. Vamos Adelante will help purchase seeds as some families cannot afford to. To avoid a food shortage, in the short-term it is likely Vamos Adelante will need to also supplement food supplies in this region by purchasing corn and beans for consumption.

Thank you for your continued care and concern for the well-being of those affected by Fuego's eruption.
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The Word Central Kitchen has been busy up in Ceylan, continuing to support Vamos Adelante and this community. They installed a kitchen, including a big water purifying system (including a giant 1,100 L tank) run on solar power in case of an emergency. The system purifies ~1 gallon/minute and simultaneously charges a battery, so community members are able to collect water, charge mobile phones, etc. The World Central Kitchen's service will end at the end of July. Due to this, the number of meals served per day will be reduced, but Vamos Adelante will resume it's lunch kitchen activities using these new facilities.

The Guatemala government is pushing hard to get the R14 (highway connecting Antigua and Escuintla) open again. Some say that there are plans for it to open in 14 days. It has not been raining much recently, so the workers have been able to work longer than usual (until midday when the rain typically starts). A few days ago some intact buildings near Zone Zero (standing close to the road and had miraculously not been damaged) were demolished without permission, including homes and a church. As you might imagine, people are quite upset.

In San Miguel Los Lotes, many more bodies have been found as the authorities finally gave permissions to enter with big machines after the organization “Antigua al Rescate” insistently filed requests for this. Permission was granted for a limited amount of days. Near the entrance of the village, 74 bodies were located last week. At this point, it is quite difficult to identify the bodies but for the surviving family members it is very important to find their loved ones and to give them a worthy funeral. Last week, another of Vamos Adelante's prior volunteer teachers was buried with her children. In several cases Vamos Adelante has paid for funeral-related transportation to support struggling families: one casket from Mexico arrived at the airport and needed to be taken to the cemetery; a bus rental to take people to/from Escuintla for a funeral in Alotenango where 10 family members were buried together, etc.

Vamos Adelante promoters continue visiting survivors in the shelters and in private homes, giving out kitchen items as needed such as pots, pans, cups, solar lamps and water filters. The project has also donated another 1,000 tin sheets to those in Ceylan whose roofs were burned and damaged in the eruption.

Many families in the shelters are now being moved to the wooden temporary shelters where they have more privacy. These families are very anxious to learn if the construction of permanent homes will become a reality. Recently, some irregularities in construction material prices were discovered and legal steps to address these have been taken. It is not clear when the actual construction of houses will begin.

The families which have found closure from saying good-bye when burying their loved ones are ready to start moving on. Those who lost their job want to look for a new one. All want to create a new future but that is hard without certain plans and a timeline for their permanent housing situation. They are very thankful, but worried. Others continue to wait to see of their family members will be identified through DNA tests. Over 100 bodies have not yet been identified. Some continue to fight for more permits so the search for bodies may continue.

The "State of Emergency" will end this week, on August 3. Once that is lifted, will families in shelters return to their homes or stay until the rainy season is over? We do not know at this point. Everybody is afraid of the strong unpredictable rains in August and September.

Thank you again and again for continuing to support Vamos Adelante's work.
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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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$62,399 of $70,000 goal

Raised by 441 people in 6 months
Created June 4, 2018
Funds raised will benefit:
Amigos De Vamos Adelante NFP
Certified Charity
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Elburn, IL
EIN: 452123906
How it Works
  1. You make a donation using a PayPal account or a credit/debit card to PayPal Giving Fund (a 501(c)(3) charitable organization).
  2. After the deduction of payment processing fees, PayPal Giving Fund delivers the funds it receives to the chosen charity on a monthly basis.*
* If, after reasonable efforts, PayPal Giving Fund cannot deliver donations to this charity, the funds may be donated to another charity per PayPal Giving Fund’s policies.
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