Sunday, November 18, 2012

Earthquake info

Hi friends,
I am sorry that I have not had much of an update about the earthquake here.
We have been very busy since the earthquake hit.

We have been the  liaisons here for Shelter box..which is an International relief organization funded by Rotary.
We have been storing the huge Shelter boxes here for the past two years...and just the morning of the earthquake we had a group here and I showed them the boxes and said " hopefully, we won't have to use them for a long time"....and then just a little while later the earthquake hit!

While it was very strong and scary here in Panajachel, we were fortunate , apart from some cracks in some buildings we did not have much damage.
Unfortunately, many other places were not so lucky.

The department of San Marcos was very badly hit. This was Wednesday.
We went out there on Friday , taking Shelter boxes , a team from Mayan Families who were experienced in erecting the tents and a visiting group of Rotarian's from Upper Arlington Rotary Club, Columbus Ohio were here and were able to come with us and help.

When we first drove into San Marcos the damage was not so obvious but after being taken around to so many different houses that had been destroyed or made uninhabitable and unsafe, we started to get an idea of how overwhelming the destruction was. Every street seemed to have a house that had fallen down or was in danger of falling down. Sometimes from the outside the houses looked OK. but then we would go inside and there were walls crumbling and it was obvious that the houses were very unsafe.

We were taken to an emergency community kitchen that had been set up and there were lines of people waiting to be fed.   

One of the local people brought a woman to me ...probably in her mid 30's who had suffered terribly from this earthquake. 
She had lost her mother, her 3 year old son, her sister and her sister's little child..  Her brother was in the hospital having his leg amputated from the knee downward.
Her young niece was being flown out by helicopter as we were speaking, she was being rushed to the hospital in Guatemala City where she was going to have an operation to try and repair and operation that had not gone well in San Marcos. If this operation was not successful , it was feared that she would be unable to walk .  Her house was also destroyed . Her husband had left several months ago to go to the U.S. illegally and he has not found a job.   He does not have the money to come back and be with his family right now.   I cannot imagine what either of them are going through. 

I had no idea what to say to a person who was going through such suffering and grief.  She looked at me with such dazed eyes and told me that she had two children that had survived and she had to go on for them. She asked me why God would have allowed this to happen. I had no answers for her, I could not even fathom such grief as she was enduring  but hugged her and wished her the strength to be able to get through this.    Later I saw her meeting with the Vice President of Guatemala and being hugged by her.  I hope that she can get some help for her family.

There were so many families and stories.

One family that we sent a tent up in their courtyard was a grandmother, single mother, three children.  The young daughter, around 10 years old had been lying on the bed , she jumped up and grabbed her pet rat in a cage and ran out.   This family was so lucky, the little girls bed had a wall fall down on it completely.   If it had been night and she had been asleep ...she would not have had the time to get up and get out.  If this earthquake had not happened in the middle of the day...the death toll would have been very, very high. 
This family lost their the grandmother told me, even their toilet was broken.    Their kitchen was still standing but unsafe, they were using that until we put up the Shelter box tent.
All their possessions were in the courtyard . It was obvious this was a family without much money, if any at all, to be able to rebuild.   I wonder how these families are going to be able to re build.
The grandmother had the same dazed look that we saw in so many eyes.  

So many people were begging us for tents for shelter but we did not have that many with us and the Shelter box team were flying in and we were going to hand over making the decisions to them.   

After the Shelter box team arrived, they thought there would not be much of a need for the tents as they had thought.  It looked like some people would be able to build a tin shelter or stay with families, but then the government sent engineers to start looking at the houses and there were so many houses marked for demolition ..that they realized that these people would no longer have anywhere to live.   So they ordered more Shelter boxes to come in.

We ended up clearing a field of corn ..that had already been harvested in one village. 15 tents were able to be set up there.
Each tent can hold up to 10 and probably more ..they are fantastic tents.

We found one family that the mother had just given birth to a baby a few days before. She was lying in bed with the baby when the earthquake hit.
She grabbed the baby and ran out ....her husband also made it out. There very small house collapsed around them. The mother and the baby probably would not have survived if the mother had hesitated to run out.    The mayor of this town sent in 5 men to clear the little house so that a Shelter box tent could be erected for them. 
They were so thrilled. They had been sleeping in an emergency shelter set up in a church.  
The baby had not been named yet so they named the baby, Jennifer , after the leader of the Shelter Box team. 

Bob and Oscar from Mayan Families stayed onto help the Shelter Box team and the rest of us went back to Panajachel.
The day after we left they found an emergency shelter where the people were sleeping on a concrete floor and were freezing . They did not have enough blankets and they did not have mattresses.
They contacted the Rotary Club and were able to get mattresses, blankets and some food to them.
Many of these people need someplace to live.
The Shelter Box team have realized that the problem is going to be much larger than they first anticipated.
When we returned to Panajachel, we had a request from the Mayor of Solola to tour some of the areas affected here.
Susie and Sergio went with them to take photos and there are many houses in various villages that have been badly damaged or destroyed completely.
Tomorrow, Monday , 19th, we are sending Bob, a Mayan Families staff member once again with the Mayor to see if we can find families who would fit the criteria for a Shelter box tent.
The Shelter Boxes are fantastic but they are a temporary shelter...( even though we still have people living in them 2 years after Tropical Storm Agatha was here)..but what we need are real houses for people to live in.
We are going to make an effort to build as many houses as we can ......please join us in this effort to help families get back on their feet.
These will be basic houses but they will be safe and warm.
If you would like to donate a house in the name of someone who has all they need already for Christmas, please know that this would be a miracle for the family that receives it.
If you would like to donate so that someone can buy a sheet of tin for their roof, that would also be a huge help.
If you would like to bring a team down and build a house would be a great time to do that. 

There is always a lot of need in Guatemala but right now it is worse and the need is more urgent.   If you have ever thought about helping with a small donation ...this would be a great time to do it. Please mark it for Earthquake Relief. 

Thank you ,
To donate, please click on the link below!

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