After the Eruption
Yesterday, we had the opportunity to travel to Alotenango, a small town located just 7 miles from some of the areas most impacted by the recent eruption of Volcán de Fuego, to meet with staff members from Caritas Arquidiocesana, a Catholic Church-affiliated organization doing amazing work in the aftermath of this tragedy.
At the local Catholic church in the town's central park, we were able to observe Caritas medical staff and volunteers during their second "jornada medica", a temporary day-long clinic where dozens of volunteer doctors, psychologists, and other medical professionals work to provide needed physical and mental care for the victims of the eruption. We were able to deliver nearly $1000 worth of the medicines that Caritas had identified as those that were in short supply, and heard from the doctor overseeing the clinic about how medical needs have shifted since the first days after the eruption.
Mission Guatemala’s director Dave Burns and Marily Matzar, our Supervisor of Community Relations, also spent time speaking with the Caritas representatives in charge of the organization’s disaster response. Caritas has worked since the day of the eruption to bring needed aid to the survivors that fled their homes and who are now living in temporary shelters and in homes and other locations across the area. The Caritas staff spoke of how the crisis that these families were living was one that would stretch long into the future, as the families and individuals struggled to rebuild their lives, to find new homes and to sustain their families. Caritas' goal, they stated, was to be present for the long term, to continue to love and support the affected families even after others might have forgotten.
To end our day, we went with members of the Caritas team to visit families who are temporarily sheltered inside local homes. We heard stories from the survivors about the eruption, of the silence of the volcano that day, and the suddenness with which everything changed, of how they were impacted and, in some cases, about the family members they lost. Almost all of the individuals we spoke with had lost family members or friends from their community in the disaster. One woman recounted that of the 160 families in her community, she had only been able to find 20 in the week since the eruption.
What we saw was heartbreaking. There is so much need. Caritas is an organization that is known and trusted in the communities, and we are excited for the opportunity to be a part of what they are doing to help our friends and neighbors in their time of need.
The doctors we spoke with said that over the past several days, the number of patients with respiratory issues has been steadily increasing, and medicines that are used to treat these specific issues, as well as so many others, are in limited supply. Next week, we will be receiving a list of critical medicines from Caritas and our hope is to be able to provide these and other medications to help address these needs.
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To see more photos from our visit to Alotenango, click here.