After the storm, through the eyes of children

by Mary Horan Gautschi, Development Manager at Common Hope

Mary was in Guatemala when tropical storm Agatha hit Guatemala, affecting many families affiliated with Common Hope. The following is a reflection she wrote after returning to Minnesota, about her experience visiting the community of San Pedro Las Huertas several days after the storm. That day, Common Hope’s relief efforts included activities led by staff psychologists to help children process the destruction of the storm.

Mary in Guatemala with (l to r) her sponsored student Raul, Raul's brother Carlos, and his sister Odalys.

We loaded the truck at Familias de Esperanza with emergency items and headed out for the shelter in San Pedro las Huertas.  I have to admit I was apprehensive about what I would see, and because I don’t speak Spanish, I worried that I would not be able to express my heartfelt concern to the people I would meet.

The truck approached a grassy field, and five of our social work and psychology staff jumped out with arms full of books, toys, puzzles, crayons, and games.  As we continued up the hill to the area heavily hit by the storm Agatha, news of the games spread quickly.  Children filled the road, and I watched them run down the hill, their faces lit up in anticipation of fun and games and a much needed break from the realities of the past few days.

Later that morning, I was able to join the kids at the field.  I saw the kids finishing up an art project and asked about what they were doing.  Flor, one of our psychology staff, explained to me that by giving the children the opportunity to express themselves through art, it would help them reduce their stress and reconcile feelings about what happened to their families and homes because of Agatha’s destruction.  The children were asked to trace their hands on paper and were told they could draw or color anything inside their hands that they wanted to be magic.

Magic Hands 1

Brenda's magic hands, drawn last week in San Pedro Las Huertas, one of the communities most affected by tropical storm Agatha.

The drawings were in sharp contrast to what I saw of their homes overlooking the field.  Many of the homes were completely washed away and others damaged and filled with mud and debris.  Twisted rebar and corrugated sheeting were strewn everywhere.  But inside the magic hands were houses with pitched roofs, doors and windows, flowers, soccer balls and things that any child would wish for.

Brenda Hernandez Vasquez added a beautiful rainbow to her hand.  Most likely when she was drawing it she wasn’t thinking of Dorothy singing my favorite song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but my heart believes she was hoping for a blue sky and a land where her dreams would come true.  I’m with you, Brenda. I too am hoping your dreams will come true.

Jose Luis's magic hands

Jose Luis's magic hands, an art project led by Common Hope psychologists to help children process the destruction of the storm.

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