from Phil Shea, Southwest Conference Disaster Coordinator:
Amanda Sheldon, a UCC Disaster Ministries staff member, reported this week the long-term devastation to the El Rodeo village and community in Guatemala. She spoke this week to our Conference Disaster Coordinators from a very personal place having done ministry/justice work near El Rodeo in the past.
The El Rodeo community is mostly made up of "return refugees" from Mexico where they had previously escaped during the Guatemala civil war. They are primarily coffee farmers and relied on their community farms to sustain their families and community. The ash from the volcano has rendered the land unusable for farming for the next 10 years. These families will be forced to disperse and relocate. Due to the drop in coffee prices they already had seen their income reduced significantly leaving them with little financial reserves. Before the volcanic eruption they were preparing to celebrate 20 years of a safe and free Guatemala following their return to their homeland from Mexico.
An emerging issue has been an increasing number of elderly becoming sick in the shelters. This is largely due to the intense humidity along with the heat. Local churches have started opening their facilities as small, cooled shelters for small groups of elderly.
In addition to the relief described in the previous post, UCC Disaster Ministries continues to collect funds to assist our partners there and to build a reserve to assist further once we know what the long-term recovery will look like. We will need to be ready to respond when that time comes. This is UCC Disaster Ministry's strength, staying with communities for long-term recovery long after the first and short-term emergency responders leave.
We encourage and are thankful for your continued gifts. For those of you who would like to receive occasional updates, please contact our Conference Disaster Coordinator, Phil Shea, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-663-5065. He will add you to a distribution list for those interested in following and supporting UCC's long-term engagement in Guatemala. You can also contact Phil if you are interested in sending a work team to another disaster area where UCC is actively providing recovery and rebuilding ministry. Right now there are needs in Texas (October and November work teams needed), Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands.