Guatemala Aid Relief

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June 3rd saw the beginning of the eruption of Volcán de Fuego or the Volcano of Fire. This catastrophe has destroyed several communities in Guatemala. The town of El Rodeo has been covered, with houses demolished by volcanic ash, debris from lahars and the enormous pyroclastic flows. This has led to the tragic deaths of an estimated 112 people and local sources claim at least 2000 have been severely affected.

The effects of volcanic ash are well known, it can lead to burning and should it get into your lungs, it can lead to suffocation. For these reasons, medical aid, shelter, food, and clothing are needed. None of which are being provided by the Guatemalan government. President Jimmy Morales has claimed there is no aid available and has actively taken motions do deny other countries from providing aid. Later, it was found, that state officials have been poaching aid from volunteer-run aid and emergency shelters. This shows a government, lacking in competence, thieving from those donating and lacking the humanity to help its own citizen and denying others from providing aid.

The above is the makings of a large-scale humanitarian crisis in Guatemala, it all remains the job of the international community to ensure that the people of Guatemala feel support and can rebuild their lives. Burnaby South Secondary School grade 12 students have held a fundraiser and sent messages of support to the people of Guatemala but the work doesn’t stop there. CoDevelopment Canada is working with the Women’s Association of the development of Sacatepéquez who are providing clothing, food, bedding and, shelter in affected municipalities but they do require donations.

To show your support, for the people fighting for their survival in Guatemala, please donate through, CoDevelopment Canada. You can do this by calling 778 874 0539, ext. 111 to donate with a card, or mail a cheque to CoDev with ‘Guatemala Volcano Relief’. 

Catarina and Elvis from the CCDA visit to Vancouver

On October 2016 we were fortunate to have the visit of the Mayan activists Catarina Garcia Hernández and Elvis Santigo from the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) as part of their 2016 Canadian Tour. Catarina is a CCDA coordinator for the province of Quiche and an active member of the organization’s National Executive Committee. Elvis is a Maya Kakchiquel from the community of Santa Cruz Quixaya, Solola, Guatemala and he is the coordinator of the CCDA’s coffee export and commercialization.

While Catarina stayed in the city Elvis travel north of the province, both sharing their stories of struggle and community empowerment. At the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam people of the University of British Columbia Catarina was proud to share her story in several spaces. She presented at the Geography, Environment and Globalization class with Juanita Sundberg. She also got a chance to connect with the land by exchanging ideas with the Tu’wusht Garden project, sponsored by the Vancouver Native Health Society, that provides support and opportunities for Aboriginal people living in east Vancouver to improve their health through sharing knowledge and building connections (http://lfs-indigenous.sites.olt.ubc.ca/tuwusht-garden-project-vancouver-native-health-society/).

She walked the Milpa and teach us about different uses for the plants at the Mayan garden, created in 1986 when five Maya families came to Canada as refugees from Guatemala.

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She later met with visiting Chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en and Haida Nations, and in an emotional and spiritual encounter they all shared similarstories of struggle about the appropriation of their territories and the challenges that their communities were currently  facing.

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Catarina was even invited to place a nail at a Totem Pole that the Haida Gwaii Nation was carving as a representation of their pain and the marks that will allow for these wounds to always be remembered.

Finally, the visited the roaster where the Guatemalan coffee gets processed, several cafes, and got a chance to tell people the stories behind the coffee and the work of the CCDA.

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We will miss Catarina and Elvis but this encounter strengthens the idea that behind every cup of coffee there is a story of struggle, commitment and empowerment!!