After the eruption of Volcán de Fuego on June 3, 2018, Common Hope | Familias de Esperanza opened its doors as a meeting place for representatives from local NGOs in the Antigua area to unite and coordinate relief efforts.
With funds donated by generous supporters, Common Hope was able to provide support in a few different ways including purchasing and donating relief supplies, food, and shelving to organize medical donations. Additionally, Common Hope made a financial donation that enabled the hiring of a relief coordinator, Elizabeth Franco, who worked to coordinate the combined efforts between NGOs (ConstruCasa, SERES, WINGS, Women’s Justice, UNICEF, PCI-USAID, Plan International, and the Red Cross), organized community committees, as well as the state and municipal representatives. Elizabeth worked on the ground level getting to know the key actors as well as tirelessly connecting the dots between everyone.
Laying the first brick
In February 2019, Common Hope’s Executive Director, Shari Blindt, and Country Director, Rebecca Sanborn, visited the site where houses will be built for some of families displaced by the eruption. There, they laid the first brick that will become the foundation of one of the new homes. Common Hope used relief donations to pay for the construction of five of those homes, which will be built in partnership with ConstruCasa, a local NGO that builds block homes who we have had a partnership for many years. Common Hope is grateful that together we can leverage our long-standing partnership with ConstruCasa to give families the opportunity to rebuild their lives with a safe, clean, and dignified place to call home. At the brick laying you could feel that after eight months, these families were hopeful for their futures.
Additional Relief Efforts
After being hired to coordinate relief efforts, Elizabeth Franco immediately went to work. She spent the majority of her time in the field, visiting the two main shelters to learn the needs, both immediate and long-term. She checked in with representatives at the national and local level to discuss challenges and setbacks after the eruption. One of the biggest challenges was finding reliable and timely information from government institutions regarding donations, what decisions were being made, and information about the populations affected. By attending meetings, being in the field, crossing data, and tapping networks, Elizabeth successfully ensured the transparency of how donations were allocated and delivered as well as opened up communications channels which became lifelines for the affected population.
“The approach, coordinating everyone, was very effective because one of the greatest challenges is knowing what to donate, how to donate, and when is the best time to make the donation so it is effective. I think we managed to overcome those challenges, since the donations were guided transparently and effectively. We were able to support the affected families with suitable donations beyond their immediate needs,” says Elizabeth.
In addition to essentials like food, water, clothing, and medicine, funds donated to Common Hope for relief efforts also provided things like board games for children, workshops for youth, cleaning supplies for shelters, cement, scissors, cell phones for community leaders, and a vast array of other needed items.
One of the most critical donations made by Common Hope was a water tank and pump, which provided water to the entire community living in temporary shelters of Escuintla who had very limited access to water for only a few hours a day. This was critical not only because of the scarcity of water and the high temperatures in the area, but also because the temporary shelters are made completely out of wood and therefore pose a high risk for fire. Now, with the tank and water pump there is a first response in the event of fire.
Funding also provided a workshop for youth called, Playing for Peace. This workshop is specifically designed for populations that have experienced trauma and hardship and was therefore chosen to lay the groundwork for the youth towards their path of emotional recovery in the face of the eruption. Given that there isn’t much for young people living in a temporary shelter to do, Playing for Peace also gave the youth an outlet. Those leading this workshop continue to work with young people to help them find their resiliency in the face of such a tragedy through another partner NGO called SERES.
Recovering from a natural disaster takes time. The homes being built by ConstruCasa are expected to be completed in June and Common Hope will continue to provide support and hope to the families affected by the eruption.
“For me it is a privilege to be able to do a job that has the purpose of leaving a positive mark on our Guatemalan society. I believe that empathy and awareness of the different needs of people are of great importance in order to understand their realities,” remarked Elizabeth after her final report to local NGOs.
We would like to say thank you to Elizabeth Franco for her ceaseless efforts and to all those who donated to the Fuego Relief Fund. Together, lives are being rebuilt…poco a poco.