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¡Fuerza Guatemala!

Katherine Zavala, Thousand Currents Latin America Director, has been in close communication with partners on the ground in Guatemala since the eruption of #VolcánDeFuego and prior as the murders of environmental defenders were occurring. Our partners AFEDES, CCDA, ISMUGUA, and the Comisión de Mujeres de Centroamérica have been responding to their communities’ immediate needs, while anticipating long term needs for recovery.

We’re committed to standing in solidarity with our partners, lifting their stories of resilience, and stepping into action when asked. Below the updates are listed in real time. Scroll to the bottom to read from the beginning.

Interested in learning more about the connections between forced family separation at the U.S. border and eruptions of violence and volcanoes in Guatemala?
Join us for an online gathering on August 21st with our partners, AFEDES and CCDA. RSVP here.

August 11, 2018

Update from CCDA via Facebook:

Through their community development and accompaniment program, CCDA coordinates activities with La Reyna and Don Pancho communities affected by the eruption of Volcán de Fuego.

August 3, 2018

Update from ISMUGUA via email:

ISMUGUA has distributed much needed supplies such as kitchenware and bed sheet sets to the families affected by the volcano eruption. Families have been transferred to Albergues Transitorios Unifamiliares – ATUST  (Transient Single Family Households). This was done in coordination with La Secretaría de Obras Sociales de la Esposa del Presidente –SOSEP (The Secretariat of Social Work of the Wife of the President of the Republic of Guatemala) and La Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastre -CONRED (The National Coordination for Disaster Reduction of Guatemala). Below are photos of the distribution. 



July 17, 2018

Update from ISMUGUA via video call:

We’d like to share how the eruption of the volcano has caused great sadness due to the impact that it’s had now and that it will continue to have in the long term. We are working to help families rebuild their lives. Affected families are currently in temporary shelters and are in the process of being moved to other temporary housing. Later, they will be permanently relocated.

Due to the new housing law requiring the involvement of a civil society entity, ISMUGUA is accompanying the relocation process. As part of this entity, ISMUGUA is engaging in political advocacy. We want to ensure that the new housing that’s built is adequate, sustainable, and well-built, not only for the families that are in need now but for future families.

There are rains now, which means that there is great risk of mudslides, especially in 3 municipalities. We are working with those municipalities to form local coordinators in case this happens.

We are also supporting families that have taken it upon themselves to find shelter on their own. We are delivering packages to them that include kitchenware, mosquito nets, underwear, and other essential items.

Update from AFEDES via video call:

We are upset and hurt by the events following the volcanic eruption. Many people have disappeared and many have died. 3-5k people have disappeared, although the State is minimizing this number.

With the help from many community members, we have taken food to the affected people. We have opened a collection center in Santiago, specifically to collect culturally appropriate clothing for Mayan communities.

We have been putting together kits that includes underwear, menstrual products, and towels. 

We opened a school for weaving in San Juan to serve as a therapeutic outlet and also a way to help communities generate income through selling their woven products. We hope this activity reactivates their local economy and also serve as emotional support.

Given the magnitude of the problem in which almost one million people have been affected, AFEDES is not alone in taking action. We are part of a collective of groups called Coordinated Solidarity. There are 4 working groups, and AFEDES participates in 2 of the working groups: reconstruction and psychosocial help. The weaving schools are part of the psychosocial project.

Many of the actors supporting the situation focus on housing, but this means that many important things are missing. For these rural communities, their way of life is based on living off the land and cultivating their own food. People are being moved to temporary shelters in urban areas, and their social fabric gets broken in those situations. We are working with authorities to make sure this social fabric stays intact and to relocate families to areas where they can continue living in the way they are accustomed and wish to live. We have been offering agroecology workshops in the communities near the volcanoes and have been taking agroecology bags that include seeds, fertilizer, and hens. This is an effort to help people recover their way of life.

In the municipality of San Juan there are 6 temporary houses for 36 families and they will stay there through the end of the year. AFEDES will meet with the mayor soon to see how they can support these families through the Coordinated Solidarity collective.

July 4, 2018

Update from CCDA via Facebook:

Despite the great need and vulnerability in the aftermath of the volcano eruption, our partner CCDA, along with other grassroots organizations in Guatemala, continue to be criminalized and targeted.

July 4, 2018

June 29, 2018

June 26, 2018

June 19, 2018

Update from ISMUGUA via email:

In relation to the attention we’ve given to those affected by the volcano, as ISMUGUA we are carrying out the following actions:

With the support of OXFAM, a work team of four people has been integrated into the ISMUGUA-ESFRA Alliance, which will serve 20 communities including Escuintla, Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, and Siquinala, which may be affected by floods due to the blockage of the rivers, where the sand that ejected from the volcano descended into.

At this moment, we are in the phase of identifying the communities and coordination with the authorities at the municipal and community level, as well with the team at CONRED. It is proposed to do community organizing, training and provide equipment to the team of COLRED (these are working more at the local level in disaster preparedness and reduction work).

As a member of FODHAP (Federation of Organizations for the Development of Popular Housing), we have integrated ourselves to be part of the technical team to work on the proposal of the housing construction process.

In emergency support in the first moment, ISMUGUA provided food donations to the collection centers.

Knowing that the contribution in food, clothing, water, and medicine has been extraordinary coming from the people in general, private companies, and international aid, we went to the Escuintla hospital and met with the hospital director, who informed us that they have enough donations of medicine. What they need at this moment is bedding because this is insufficient for the over population that they are attending because of the emergency.

We are scheduled to visit shelters of Escuintla on Wednesday June 20 to coordinate these contributions.

June 18, 2018

Update from AFEDES via Facebook:

Update from AFEDES via email:

Last week civil society of Sacatepéquez was called to join together to articulate and better organize so that we could contribute to the families affected by the volcano. This will allow us to have greater strength and make a better impact in the communities. We are still organizing according to the multiple experiences and disciplines of the group to respond in the medium and long term.

Last week, we were carrying personal items for women, men, girls and boys from 3 shelters, we supported more than 1,000 people of different ages with the funds you’ve sent us. A center was opened for the collection of food, medicine, clothes and indigenous Mayan clothing  for indigenous women who are in the shelters. So far, 65 indigenous clothes have been delivered to indigenous women from the community of Don Pancho of the village, el Rodeo, who are housed in Palín, and the shelter of the school José Martí in the state of Escuintla.

On the other hand, among the main economic activities of the families affected by the Volcán de Fuego is the cultivation of food such as corn, beans, herbs, vegetables, and among them coffee that generates income for families. However, due to the material expelled by the volcano, these crops were strongly affected, leaving families without food or a source of income for the immediate future. 

Generally, indigenous and rural families prioritize food crops and livestock production that are complemented by income generation initiatives and thus survive in an economically precarious situation and without greater opportunities. That is why we think in the medium term, supporting families with agricultural bags to generate minimum conditions to recover the ways of life that builds families’ livelihoods, which have now been affected by the volcano.

We are also waiting to start with weaving workshops for women. However, the militarization and bureaucracy to access the sheltered families have not helped to coordinate the workshops. Therefore, the importance of allying with other people and organizations is critical to strengthen this effort.

June 16, 2018 

Update from Thousand Currents via newsletter:

As you likely well know by now, the Volcán de Fuego [Fire Volcano] erupted in Guatemala on June 3rd, destroying villages and claiming over a hundred lives.

Four of our partners in Guatemala swiftly moved into action, responding to their communities. For example:


Angelina Aspuac (center) distributes underwear and other necessities in the hostels of San Juan Alotenango.

CCDA’s central office in Santa Cruz Quixayá immediately began accepting local in-kind donations.


In addition, seven rights defenders have been murdered in the last month in Guatemala, three of whom are community leaders working with our partner CCDA – José Can XolMateo Chaman Paau and Ramón Choc Sacrab.

As in most tragedies, our partners understand the political, economic, and environmental conditions that affect their communities. Many of the those impacted are Indigenous Peoples and have faced severe repression for years, only exacerbated by these recent events. Our partners continue to serve people’s immediate needs, while working towards their liberation in the long term.

Despite many obstacles, our partners are fueled by the generosity, compassion, and kindness shown among family, friends, and communities ever present in the aftermath of disasters. As Milivan Aspuac of AFEDES explained in an email this week:

“For us going and being in the shelters and being able to talk with the people affected by this tragedy is quite a hard and impactful experience. One feels powerless in the face of need and pain…

“We are [also] very excited to see families, church groups, activists, students, farmers, and many people who are giving what little they have to help in these difficult times…together we will move forward.”

Thousand Currents is providing an emergency grant to each of our partners impacted by the volcano and will work with them to identify a suitable recovery plan. For additional reading, see our blog “What Thousand Currents knows and does in the face of disaster.”

We honor the lives lost in the destruction of the volcano and those lives lost in the struggle for self-determination and protection of Mother Earth.

We are honored to stand in solidarity with our Guatemalan partners at this time. We greatly appreciate your support as we extend backing for our partners’ responses to these tragedies, and we ask our community to hold them and their communities in your hearts during this trying time. 

¡Fuerza Guatemala!

Katherine Zavala, Latin America Regional Director
On behalf of the Thousand Currents Team

June 12, 2018

Update from AFEDES via email:

Hello Katherine!

Many thanks to Thousands Currents for always being willing to support us. Today in the morning I informed the board of directors about the support and they are very grateful because in this way we can support the affected families, although we know that the need is greater, but with the contribution and support of many people, things can move forward…

…For us going and being in the shelters and being able to talk with the people affected by this tragedy is quite a hard and impactful experience. One feels powerless in the face of need and pain. We are also furious and frustrated by the government decisions that, instead of helping, hinder national and international aid. Yesterday the army did not allow us to enter one of the shelters saying that everything was already covered, but from inside we were informed that women need personal items such as underwear, since many of them are menstruating and these items are important.

We are prioritizing going to the unofficial shelters that are those that are supported by voluntary work of families, churches both evangelical and Catholic and do not have enough supplies. In addition, they are directly serving families in need. We went to a shelter where there are 25 indigenous Kaqchikel families who, more than 15 years ago, were displaced from the armed conflict and were relocated on the slopes of the volcano. Now they suffer this calamity, and so, we will continue to contact them to see in the medium term a way to support them.

We have finished this week practically attending the emergency and getting the supplies for the shelters. We are very excited to see families, church groups, activists, students, farmers and many people who are giving what little they have to help in these difficult times. It also satisfies us to make people feel that they are not alone and that together we will move forward.

A hug dear Katherine and Thousands Currents for helping us to help.


June 6, 2018

Updates from CCDA via email:

Context: Criminalization, persecution and murders

In recent years we have been the target of direct accusations, stigmatization and persecution, coming from state institutions, landowners, extractive businessmen and the sector of corrupt economic power, causing an increase in repression, persecution, criminalization, forced evictions and assassinations. This has resulted in the imprisonment of 8 leaders, who are imprisoned in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, illegitimately, unjustly, illegally and arbitrarily. We have also seen the loss of five commuity leaders: Daniel Choc Pop, José Can Xol, Samuel Chub, Mateo Chaman Paau and Ramón Choc Sacrab, leaving more than 19 children without a father, widowed women who are assuming double responsibility, family disintegration, violations of education, health, housing and food rights, which leads to the destruction of their life projects, and humanitarian crises of the displaced communities that puts them at risk of losing their lives.

The agrarian problem is historical and structural, which is reflected in the existing inequality in the country, reaffirmed by different national and international organizations…

Disaster by eruption of Volcán de Fuego

Guatemala is cataloged as the fourth most vulnerable country in the world, geographically, as we are located within the fire belt of the Pacific (34 volcanoes) and in the plate interaction zone of three continental tectonic plates. In addition, Guatemala faces structural problems and the highest inequality of Latin America, which means families are more vulnerable and affected. The Volcán de Fuego, the most active volcano, is a stratovolcano or composite volcano (characterized by their steep profile and periodic explosive eruptions and effusive eruptions) located in the states of Sacatepéquez, Chimaltenango and Escuintla. Volcán de Fuego erupted on June 3rd and pyroclastic flows, sand, lava and lahars (destructive mudflows) have left families affected and damaged with human and material losses.

In Guatemala, there is enough volcanic activity that demands better public policies related to risk analysis and management: preparedness, prevention and response. However, not having them has led to these kinds of social disasters.

Inequality and poverty has increased the physical, economic and social vulnerability of families, as many families have been assigned to settle on land that is not suitable for housing, such as the families who were living on the slopes of volcanoes, in contrast to large areas of monocultures that exist on flat lands and where families could live on without greater risk.

We are concerned that the government does not address this situation with seriousness and importance. They have refused to cede funds from the national budget for the immediate attention of the affected population, in contradiction to the allocation of millions of quetzales for the purchase of aircraft and other assets for the army, personal expenses and unnecessary trips.

Unfortunately human lives and material resources continue to be lost, there is mourning in families and they must restart their lives with the aftermath of this disaster.

The CCDA expresses its fraternity and sympathizes with the families affected by the loss of human and material lives. We are calling for and requesting the International Cooperation to support this noble cause…

June 4, 2018

Update from Katherine Zavala via email:
A couple of events that have happened in Guatemala, which are alarming and you probably have heard about:
1) The Volcán de Fuego volcano, near Antigua Guatemala, erupted yesterday, causing death and injury to Guatemalans and their communities. The volcano is near all of our Guatemalan partners, so I’ve sent a message out to everyone. Through Facebook, I know that AFEDES staff is ok, but have yet to hear from the other partners. I can imagine that ISMUGUA may be the most active in responding, the disaster preparedness network they support (CONRED) are probably instrumental to helping communities in this moment. I will update y’all, as I hear more from them, and whether they will need support in this situation.
2) A third community leader from CCDA passed away this weekend, after being attacked in a peaceful march on May 30th calling out the state to decriminalize land defenders and to do something about the land conflicts in Guatemala. His name was Ramón Choc Sacrab.
I will keep y’all updated as I get more news this week.

Update from CCDA via Facebook:

June 3, 2018

Update from CCDA via Facebook: