How to help after the Fuego Volcano eruption

As you’ve heard by now, our beloved Volcán de Fuego let out a big eruption on Sunday, June 3rd. This was the largest eruption in many decades, some say in even 100 years. While we usually love seeing lava in the clear sky, or seeing the smokes after a little Fuego burp, this time was very different. The colossal eruption created pyroclastic flows, a mixture of hot gas and volcanic rock and ash. These flows travel at extreme speeds and engulf everything on their path down from the volcano.

There have been more eruptions, evacuations, injuries, crowded shelters. The death toll is currently at 75 people, with 200 more still missing. Over 3000 people are in shelters.

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Photo by friend Cesar Barrios, a volunteer firefighter.

Let me first say that all of our artisan partners are well. Many have suffered ash falling from the sky, which is challenging to clean because of the way it turns into a cement-like substance when mixed with water. But they are not in immediate danger.

And the response by the people in Guatemala has been incredible. Many shelters are stuffed with donations (while the harder-to-reach shelters still need more goods). People are coming together to help in any way they can – cooking at home, donating food/clothes/blankets, volunteering at shelters, volunteer firefighters working in the affected areas for search and rescue.

For those of us not in Guatemala at the moment (myself included), helping out is a little bit more complicated. That’s because established emergency aid organizations like the Guatemalan Red Cross don’t always have a way to accept international donations online easily. Guatemala is considered high-risk for PayPal, which is why the Red Cross there can only accept international transfers straight into their bank accounts. This is cumbersome for people making small donations, or for those unfamiliar with this process.

That’s why there are so many Gofundme campaigns out there right now. I’m counting over 25 such campaigns with a simple search, and of course there are many other platforms for such fundraisers. I’ve been watching a few critically because I’m afraid these platforms don’t require much accountability or even transparency. The situation in Guatemala is devastating, and there is clear need. But to know exactly where your money goes, to know who you can trust with your money (and thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars more), is trickier.

So here are two concrete recommendations for you:

1. SERES  has been working for years in youth education for locally-minded sustainable development in the now-affected area. What I’ve always admired about them is their community-centric approach, giving ownership of the future to the youth. Their website is not yet updated with the volcano eruption info because they’ve been busy on the ground. Here’s a word from their founder, Corrina Grace:

On the afternoon of Sunday June 3rd,  the Volcán de Fuego – located just a few kms away from the site of the SERES Center – erupted spewing a fast moving mixture of gas and volcanic material. Most of the community of Los Lotes was buried, and the surrounding towns of El Rodeo, La Reina and others are evacuated.

As always, SERES is on the front lines providing long term support to our young people and their families. Today is no different. Half of our team piled into the pickup – loaded down much needed medical supplies, water and food – and made our way to El Rodeo. The rest got on the phones and social media, trying to locate the 100+ youth that are part of our network in the area. They were our first priority.

On the road to El Rodeo the despair and destruction in our path was overwhelming. After a day of scrambling, I hate to say that we are still trying to find some of our amazing young people. We’ve also confirmed that some of them didn’t make it out.

You can donate directly on their website to their general fund, as their donations are currently being used for most urgent needs like supplies, food, and medicine for those affected. The benefit to donating there is that it doesn’t take long for them to receive the funds (unlike Gofundme).

2. For crowdfunding, I recommend this campaign started by a respected non-profit, Vamos Adelante, that has been working in the affected area for over 20 years. Please note that Gofundme funds take 25 days to be released. But what I like about this project is that they have longer term goals in mind, since they have an established relationship with the people there. I trust them to know the needs of the people, the same people they have been working with for so long.  There will be much to do after the most urgent situation is over, to help the victims rebuild their lives.

 

When looking at other crowdfunding campaigns, please research the person who started it. Does this person have experience in emergency aid, community development, or have an established relationship with the affected communities? It’s unfortunately not unusual for fraud to arise even in catastrophic situations. Even if people have the best intentions, they might not necessarily know how to distribute the funds efficiently or even effectively.

It’s so encouraging to see how people from all over the world are supporting Guatemala right now. Thank you. The country is in crisis mode and there are more risks due to the volcanic activity, like landslides, mudslides, or more eruptions. Guatemala will be needing our help for a while. So please, take a moment to make sure that your donations are going towards the most credible fundraisers.

 

Questions? Comments? Please write below. I’d love to hear from you.

 

XOXO,

Mari

 

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Pop-Up Fundraiser THIS SUNDAY!

For all you folks in beautiful Antigua, Guatemala… we hope you can come join us for a wonderful little fundraiser in support for Bocalán Guatemala and Fundación Way-bi.

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Come and join us for a delicious brunch (THERE WILL BE MIMOSAS!), say hi to yours truly, and hang out with a couple of awesome assisted therapy dogs, like Quentin pictured above.  You know I’ll be hanging out with the pups, no doubt.

40% of sales from our Perrito Collection as well as 20% of everything else will be going to these awesome groups.  Oh, and the venue Suburbia will be donating a portion of the restaurant sales, so you can enjoy brunch and drink all those mimosas for a good cause.

 

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SEE YOU ON SUNDAY!

 

XOXO,

Mari

We’re supporting Open Windows!

There are so many different non-profit organizations in Guatemala, it’s difficult to know which ones to support.  It’s no secret that I am personally pretty picky with NGOs.  With that said, though, I am happy to introduce a well-deserving educational project in the area here in Guatemala.

While I consider Open Windows to be a great NGO, in this case my opinion is not what matters, because the support is coming from a generous donor who has decided to donate a pair of boots to their auction!  So, at their New Year’s Eve Party in Antigua, Open Windows will be auctioning off a voucher for a pair of custom-made boots by Kakaw, with all proceeds going to their programs.

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With a library full of books and computers, Open Windows provides opportunities for kids in San Miguel Dueñas (a small town outside of Antigua) to pursue their own interests and expand their horizons.

Books are incredibly expensive in Latin America, and very difficult to come by. A book here in Spanish can cost more than a book in the US, so access to such luxuries is very difficult in a small agricultural town like San Miguel Dueñas.  No wonder people in Guatemala don’t generally read for pleasure…  It’s a pretty big deal to have access to books and computers for these kids.

Interested in taking part in the auction?  Shoot me an email!  If you are looking to buy a pair of custom-made Original Boots, this is the chance to make sure 100% of the money goes to a well-deserving project.   mari@kakawdesigns.com

To learn more about Open Windows, check out their website and follow them on Facebook.

Feliz Navidad, everyone!

Success!! Fundación Waybi Event

After lots of prepping on design and production, we are so pleased with how the TAKE A WALK event went last week!

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Held at the best textile museum in Guatemala with food, wine, live music, and of course Kakaw products, it was a night not to be missed!  Fundación Waybi was able to raise awareness and funds for their animal assisted therapy programs, and we are happy to be donating 40% of all sales from that evening to the cause.

Next step: making the Perrito Collection available online, of course always with a portion going directly to Fundación Waybi so that they can continue their work with their therapy animals here in Guatemala, helping people with disabilities live fuller lives.  Expect those cute Perrito Clutches and Wallets to be available next month!

Check out some of the photos from the night:

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Perritos everywhere!

We’ve been working on something different… a collection full of dogs!  Because we love dogs, yes, but most of all because the organization Bocalán Guatemala / Fundación Waybi approached us to see if we could help them with this specific collection, with the goal of raising funds to train puppies to become therapy dogs here in Guatemala.

You see, Bocalán works internationally with dogs specifically for animal assisted therapy.  These dogs are amazing, and help people with all kinds of different disabilities live fuller and hopefully happier lives.  To learn more about the organization, check out their Facebook page.

We’re planning a local event in July to launch this collection – and soon after that, the idea is to have the products available for sale online as well, always with a portion of the sales going to Bocalán.  We’re pretty excited about this… local artisans, handmade process, high-quality and beautiful products… and now add to the list training dogs for therapy?  This is truly win-win for everyone.