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Rebuilding lives and livelihoods after hurricanes in Guatemala

Guatemala Relief_Irma Pa
Irma Pá (left) was among the hundreds of people who received food, water containers, and other vital aid after the hurricanes. Photo: Photo: Luis Ochoa/Awal Photography / AFSC

In November of last year, thousands of people lost their homes and crops to catastrophic flooding when Hurricane Eta struck Guatemala. Just two weeks later, a second storm, Hurricane Iota, made landfall in the same area—further devastating communities. Among the hardest hit were Indigenous communities in Alta Verapaz and Quiché, regions in North and Northwest Guatemala where AFSC has long-standing partnerships, but where few other organizations work.

When we put out a call for donations, the AFSC community responded generously, raising more than $56,000 for emergency relief efforts. These funds brought critical support to our grassroots community partners, whose efforts to recover were compounded by the dangers posed by armed groups in the area as well as COVID-19.

 

Irma Pá’s family was one 200 Q'eqchi Indigenous families in Alta Verapaz to receive food assistance. Her family was also one of those who received a water container as a result of our partnership with a community group, the Committee of Peasant Unity - CUC (Comité de Unidad Campesina). The water containers helped ensure safe drinking water in communities where water catchment systems had been destroyed by the storms.

She told us, “I feel very happy because of the water tank we received. Now we can store water, and we can also wash our clothes in our new sink. We also receive food, which we are going to prepare to feed our children. We are very happy to receive this support from AFSC.”

We were also able to provide Alta Verapaz residents with temporary housing, hygiene, kits, and materials to rebuild their homes. In addition, we delivered pigs for breeding and compost production and 40,000 seedlings—including cabbage, onion, broccoli, and celery—that will help families put food on the table for years to come.

In the Ixil Indigenous of Quiché, another 200 families received support at a critical time.

In addition to providing food assistance, we worked in close partnership with a community group, the Ixil Youth Network Chemol Txumb’al, to deliver water containers to guarantee access to safe drinking water in four communities.

We are deeply grateful to the AFSC community for helping communities in Guatemala not only meet their immediate needs, but also rebuild for a safer, more sustainable future. Without this kind of assistance, many impacted by the storms would have been forced to migrate. As Guatemala recovers, we hope our efforts will help make it possible and sustainable for community members who wish to do so to remain in their communities. And that we can keep up our work together toward a more just, peaceful future where everyone has the resources they need to thrive.