Life, Death and Volcanoes

eruption of volcano during dawn
Photo by Pete Johnson on Pexels.com

Holy wow, what a week. Last Sunday, June 3rd, el Volcan de Fuego (“Fire Volcano) erupted violently, killing at least 100 people. It is one of 22 volcanoes in Guatemala, although only a few of them are active. Fuego sits several miles outside a popular tourist destination, the colonial city of Antigua, and is known for its impressive shows of smoke puffs which are a regular fixture on the skyline visible from Guatemala City, Antigua and even from where I live, 3 hours away, at Lake Atitlan.

The villages that sat near the base of the volcano were hit hard. So many people and animals were killed, burned or otherwise injured and traumatized by this natural disaster. There is no possible evacuation when pyroclastic (gas and rock mixture) explosions speed down the mountainside. This makes the recent, slow moving lava on Hawaii’s big island look tame. The destruction is unfathomable, and the pain and suffering are palpable. All of us “gringos” who live in Guatemala have received countless messages from friends and family asking if we are okay. We are. The ones who are not okay are the people who lived by the volcano, most of whom were struggling to get by financially from day to day even before the tragedy hit.

Adding salt to the wound is that fact that the Guatemalan government, if you can even call it that, is so defunct and corrupt that the powers-that-be are not able or willing to provide meaningful aid. International aid is slow and minimal, since foreign countries know that most of the money they send will not be applied toward the disaster at hand. This display of rampant greed and ignorant cruelty is disgusting.

At the same time, thousands of people have been contributing to the relief effort–rich and poor, Guatemalans and expats, everyday citizens and emergency professionals–to search for and rescue survivors, to collect and distribute donated supplies for those who lost their homes and all their possessions, to build shelters, to comfort the brokenhearted with their outpouring of love and kindness.

volcano pacaya fuego backbend
Me and Volcan de Fuego puffing, 2010.

Overnight, hundreds of crowdfunding pages were created by caring individuals to raise money for the medical care of those injured and the rebuilding that will certainly take years. (Hopefully, they are caring … as always with tragedies, there are some who look to profit personally from it.) Guatemala is home to hundreds of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) due to many issues in this country stemming from extreme poverty of much of the mostly Mayan-indigenous population. These organizations are the ones to support.

If you would like to donate to the relief effort, here are 3 highly-recommended, vetted, grassroots non-profits that will doubtless use every dollar in the most effective and efficient way to alleviate suffering:

Thank you for caring!

May all beings be safe.

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