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Mourning and grief reign in Guatemala after deadly volcanic eruption: A woman weeps on June 4, 2018, over the coffin of her young daughter, who died in the eruption of Guatemala's Volcan del Fuego volcano. EFE
Mourning and grief reign in Guatemala after deadly volcanic eruption: A woman weeps on June 4, 2018, over the coffin of her young daughter, who died in the eruption of Guatemala's Volcan del Fuego volcano. EFE

Philly church spearheads support for Guatemala

Pastor Nolberto Guerra Chacón of Fresca Unción Internacional, a church in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, is leading a fundraising and relief effort for the…

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The Philadelphia church Ministerio Fresca Unción Internacional, led by Pastor Nolberto Guerra Chacón, has kickstarted a local fundraiser for relief efforts for the nearly 2 million people affected by the volcanic eruption in Guatemala on June 3 that has killed 99 people as of Thursday, with the death toll expected to rise.

Guerra Chacón said that funds will be entrusted to two members of the congregation, Selvin Erasmo Ipiña and Amy Lucero, who will leave for Guatemala on June 23 to coordinate the use of funds for the purchase and distribution of necessary provisions on the ground in the departments of Escuintla, Sacatepéquez, and Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Basic supplies, such as food, water, and clothing are needed in order to support and sustain the more than 3,000 people in shelters and more than 12,000 who have been evacuated from the affected area, according to Guatemala’s National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred).

The GoFundMe page, Fresca Uncion Unidos por Guate, was started by Guerra Chacón and the Fresca Unción church. The group has raised $1,055 through the online fundraiser as of Thursday afternoon, as well as $4,000 in cash donations. Guerra Chacón noted that the funds will be sent in the form of a remittance, which will then be used by the two delegates of the congregation to purchase supplies on the ground — a more effective strategy than shipping supplies from the U.S. due to the added cost and time that process would incur, he explained. 

In addition to the at least 99 people who have been killed, as reported by Guatemala’s National Institute of Forensic Sciences, statistics from Conred say that 197 are missing and more than 1.7 million are affected. The June 3 eruption was the largest recorded in the ‘Volcano of Fire’ since 1974. 

The response to fundraise and contribute to recovery was natural for Guerra Chacón, who is from the north of Guatemala and does not have any family or acquaintances in the southeastern region directly affected by the eruption.

“I see the videos, and I start crying,” said Guerra Chacón, adding that the support from Guatemalans and residents in Philadelphia, as well as people from other countries and parts of the world, has been greater than what he expected. “A lot of people have trusted in me.”

The organization will continue collecting donations through the GoFundMe page in the following weeks, including while the volunteers are on the ground working to distribute supplies and coordinate with churches in the affected areas to ensure that supplies reach those most in need.

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