While thousands of poor Guatemalan villagers fled the erupting Volcan de Fuego (Fire Volcano) outside of Antigua Guatemala, volunteers and staff from the North Dakota-founded GOD’S CHILD Project moved towards the natural disaster.
“We were lucky in that we had supplies on the ground,” said GOD’S CHILD Project founder and executive director Patrick Atkinson. “In July we sent 22,000 lbs. of donated clothing, medicines, and infant nutrition supplement from Bismarck to Guatemala, and most of that had yet to be distributed.” Volunteers and staff worked overnight to prepare those supplies for the estimated 33,000 people affected by Thursday’s volcanic explosion.
The 3,760m-tall (12,336ft) Fuego is one of Central America’s most active volcanoes. Officials said lava was covering a 4 mile area on the south and south-western side of the Fuego. The base of the volcano is located 3 miles from Antigua Guatemala while the crater is 6 miles from this heavily populated colonial tourist destination. The nation’s capital, Guatemala City, population 2,200,000 is located 21 miles from the volcan’s base.
District Governor Teresa de Jesus Chocoyo personally contacted The GOD’S CHILD Project immediately after Thursday’s volcanic eruption asking for emergency assistance. Having heard, felt and seen the volcano’s impact blast, Project staff are already at work organizing volunteers to check on families and children living in the affected area.
Javier Castro of The GOD’S CHILD Project said, “My first call was to Direct Relief International to obtain permission to access the hurricane preparedness module that they store on the Project’s property. These are complete kits that contain ready-to-eat meals, water purification tablets, antibiotics, and first-aid kits. They are able to provide immediate care for up to 5,000 people.”
Sergio Cabanas, Head of Emergency Evacuations for CONRED, the Guatemalan Disaster Coordinating Committee, originally said evacuation orders for more than 33,000 people in 17 towns and villages had been issued. District Governor Chocoyo asked that The GOD’S CHILD Project provide and coordinate assistance efforts and make Project properties available for the anticipated 11,000 refugees.
Murray Sagsveen, Chief Operating Officer for The GOD’S CHILD Project said, “The GOD’S CHILD Project has been working in Guatemala for twenty years now. We lived through Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Tropical Storm Stan in 2005, and different earthquakes, so we have both experience and disaster response plans in place.”
Hurricane Mitch killed an estimated 10,000 people across Central America, and left another 2.7 million homeless.
“Thankfully supporters and benefactors helped us to help the victims,” said Atkinson, who first arrived in Guatemala in 1983 to assist war victims in Guatemala, El Salvador and other Central American nations. In 2005 Atkinson received the Guatemalan Congressional Medal for his role in saving an estimated 30,000 Mayan Indian lives.
At the request of Governor Chocoyo and the National Disaster Coordinating Committee, GOD’S CHILD Project staff and volunteers are working in the affected disaster area. Specific efforts currently engaged in by The GOD’S CHILD Project during Fuego’s volcanic explosion are:
- The immediate distribution of clothing and blankets to evacuated villagers
- The purification of water for drinking and cooking
- The distribution of food and especially infant nutritional supplements
- The establishing and supervision of emergency housing for affected families.
In the Antigua area, which has not yet been immediately impacted, GOD’S CHILD Project staff and volunteers are converting the Project’s Santa Madre Homeless Shelter over to refugee housing, and preparing its lawns and green areas for the creation of tent cities, if such should be necessary. In addition, recently received donations to clothing, blankets and medicines are being distributed and stockpiled for immediate access if Fuego should continue or expand its volcanic activity.
Castro said a major concern in any major volcanic explosion is related earthquake activity, “But we don’t know and can’t speculate,” he said. “We can only be ready.”
The GOD’S CHILD Project is urgently asking for donations and public support to assist the victim’s of yesterday’s volcanic explosion. “Without your help,” Atkinson said, “we can’t do a thing. Together we are going to save lives.”
To donate, please contact The GOD’S CHILD Project at 701-255-7956 or online at www.godschild.org/donate.