November was the start of a huge upheaval for many Poq’omchí families. On the 6th we learned that the majority of the community of Queja was buried by a landslide. Heavy rains from Hurricane Eta caused this tragic event. For a few days, helicopters were sent to rescue people and bring supplies. When this ended, the need was still great. We put out a call for help and you responded in a BIG way! Less than 2 weeks later heavy rains from Hurricane Iota caused a landslide in the village of Saquixim. You responded again! Through your support, we ventured out to communities and temporary shelters, bringing food, clothing, hygiene packages, and kid’s activity packages. We met the families who had suffered so much and sought to encourage them through God’s Word and prayer. We heard their life-changing stories. Below is a 20-year-old Poq’omchí woman’s story. With tears and knots in her throat, she told us what she and her family went through during the landslide in Queja.
“I wasn’t buried in the landslide because my mom sent me to the molino (corn grinder, in order to make tortillas). While I was there, I noticed that the trees were swaying. Then I saw a great landslide coming down from the mountain. I ran to my house to search for my son and my mother. They weren’t there, so I went to my neighbor’s house. They weren’t there either.
I was very scared and felt helpless, but I had to check my house again. When I got closer my heart sank. The house and everything around it were buried. I was filled with anxiety and despair. I couldn’t find my son and mother, so I thought the worst, that they were now dead. I didn’t want to accept that though. In a state of fear and panic, I searched in the rain, mud and cold amongst the houses not buried. In one of the houses I found my son. I was so relieved. It was short-lived though. My mother was not there. I learned that she had gone back to the landslide area to search for my sisters and nephew. I quickly went to go help her. I found my mother and together we searched for them.
We could hear my sisters crying for help. Then we saw them partially buried under the mud. With all our strength, we frantically started to dig them out. People from a neighboring community came to help us. It took a lot of time and effort, but amongst all of us, we were finally able to rescue two of my sisters. They were badly injured though. They had severe wounds and broken bones. In my mother’s desperation to find my sisters, she as well sustained injuries. They were taken to a hospital in Guatemala City. They are currently recovering there. I’m not able to go and visit them, but I hope to see them soon when they are discharged.
We were able to uncover my sister and nephew, but sadly they weren’t alive. We didn’t find my other brothers and sisters. They remained buried under the landslide.
I’m grateful that you came all the way to where we are staying and for your generosity in bringing us food packages that will help us survive. I’m also grateful for the time you spent with us; for coming alongside us in our grief.”
The pain is unimaginable. There are many others who have also experienced the loss of their loved ones, houses and all their physical belongings, and their crops. We serve a loving God who is comforting those affected and will bring new life. They are thankful for the help, as one Poq’omchí man mentions:
“I’m grateful to you all for bringing these food donations to those in need in Saquixim. Thank you to those in the United States and Canada for supporting us. Seventy-five days we ago experienced great tragedies. Here in Saquixim no human life was lost, but we lost our homes.
We are so grateful that you visited us. The whole community gives thanks to the United States, Canada, and ASOSAP. You have been so kind.”
We plan to keep on helping. We will continue to deliver food packages. Also, as you may have heard, we will collaborate with other organizations to provide housing, latrines, improved wood cook stoves, and water filters.
Based on our community survey, we identified 15 families most in need. They will each receive an ASOSAP-built latrine. After that, we are hopeful that they will receive a stove and water filter from a partner organization based in San Cristobal. Thirteen of these families have been selected to receive a home from Hirsche Homes, based in Utah. One family was able to build a home using their own resources and material donations from the community. The last family will receive a house built by ASOSAP and local villagers working together. Here are the situations of three of the families:
- A 65-year-old man who lost his wife and 4 of his children. He has a 2-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter with a brain tumor, who is currently hospitalized.
- A single mother of 2 daughters who lost all her extended family and currently lives in a cloth/tin shelter
- 3 siblings (1 girl and 2 boys) and their 2 cousins. All 5 are orphaned and living together to survive.
This plan was discussed with community leaders and the families. They approved and we are excited to start! Our plan is build the latrines from March.8th- 18th. We will also gather the 15 families for health education in order to prevent disease and conduct Bible-based sessions to encourage them. Our goal is that they would put their trust in God through all that they are facing.
We thank you for continuing to serve with us and we look forward to updating you further!