All Hands and Hearts launched a remote assessment immediately after Hurricanes Eta and Iota made landfall in November 2020. Access to a sufficient water supply was highlighted as one of the highest needs in the communities being assessed, thus our team of staff and volunteers began ground up construction of a community center with the associated water, sanitation and hygiene(WaSH) facilities which include latrines and water storage for the community of Sesajal, San Pedro Carchá. We also constructed additional rainwater catchment and storage stations in the nearby community of Seraxqen, Chisec, to increase the communities’ access to water.
In October 2021, we completed our first relief program in Guatemala. We are incredibly pleased to be able to expand our international reach and extend our support to the affected communities of Sesajal and Seraxqen. Starting in January 2022, we will begin our second relief program, focused on the improvement of WaSH systems at 6 schools in the Chisec area.
Hurricane Eta swept through Guatemala on November 6, 2020. At its peak, Eta distributed 600 mm of rainfall and wind speeds as high as 235 km/hr causing significant impacts throughout Central America.
Just two weeks later, a Category 4 Hurricane, Iota, devastated the same regions that had just been impacted by Eta.
All Hands and Hearts (AHAH) began remote assessments immediately and arrived in Guatemala in February 2021 to identify how we could support the greatest need. We found the most remote, rural communities, already experiencing the highest poverty rates, were left without help from the government or aid organizations.
In the Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala, 83% of the population lives in poverty. These communities are vulnerable to lack of access to basic services, food, clean water, and livelihoods; problems exacerbated by hazards of cyclical drought and flooding. These existing hardships have been inflamed by Hurricanes Eta and Iota and compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our first program in Guatemala addressed the early-recovery needs of communities impacted by Hurricanes Eta and Iota through restoring community infrastructure, initially focussing in Sesajal on a community center with a kitchen, open air space, and latrines, as well as four water collection facilities in Seraxqen that will provide 81 families safe and reliable access to water. In an area where women and children often had to walk up to two hours each way to collect unclean water, these new water collection and storage systems are a life-changing development that will impact health, safety, livelihoods and futures for generations to come.
Our team is now back on the ground in Alta Verapaz and have been working closely with the Project Development Team to prepare for the welcoming of volunteers at the end of January. This second relief program in Guatemala is focused on constructing vital Water, Sanitary and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure across the six most vulnerable schools in Alta Verapaz.
As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, proper sanitation and hygiene practices have become increasingly important, and are one of the best ways to prevent the spread of disease. The Ministry of Education in Guatemala (MINEDUC) considers access to water essential for the road back to school.
In October 2020, MINEDUC reported there being 10.000 schools without proper access to sanitation or potable water. In particular, Alta Verapaz presents the highest number of schools in need of adequate WaSH facilities: a total of 1,633 schools.
During this new program, our goal is to impact 6 schools through the construction of vital WASH facilities. Each module will include:
- Safe, culturally appropriate toilets or latrines for girls and boys
- Handwashing stations
- Rainwater harvesting
- Water filtration
- Community-based trainings
“My name is Ernesto Tiul Coc; I have four positions in this community and region of Sesajal, including being the leader of the Community Development Council and President of the Local Government Unit. Everything that has happened in the two hurricanes last year, it affected us a lot because we have never experienced something like that, so we did not know what to do and how to react to hurricanes. Now we are learning how to protect the lives of the people in our community. And thanks to the All Hands and Hearts organization, a community center is being built that will serve as a shelter if a flood should happen again. As we have already experienced, the community center will also serve for us to receive training.
Thanks for all the support! Sesajal now looks more beautiful, we are very happy and thanks to all the people from different parts of the world who are working here for us” – Ernesto Tiul, local community leader.
“[I’m looking forward to] meeting the community, learning about their story and seeing with our own eyes what’s the impact of our work and how we contribute bringing back their lives before the disaster” – Gabi, DM12 Volunteer
In November 2020, Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota, both Category 4 storms, devastated communities across Central America. First, Hurricane Eta struck on November 3 and slowly moved across northern Nicaragua and into eastern Honduras, before continuing its path into northeastern Guatemala and the Caribbean on November 6. Just 15 miles away from Eta’s landfall, near Haulover, Iota then struck on November 17 and followed a similar path. Both storms led to significant flooding and landslides across the region, impacting millions of people.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was historically active, with Iota bringing the season’s count to 30 named storms, the most ever recorded.
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