Friday, December 11, 2009

Restoring Hope After Mudslide in El Salvador

Due to an inundation of rain from Hurricane Ida, a giant mudslide barreled down the Chicontepec Volcano in central El Salvador. It gathered mass and speed until it collided with the tranquil town of Verapaz, crashing into the city and swallowing nearly everything in its path: homes, animals, cars and over twenty of the town’s inhabitants. (To add insult to injury, many of the victims had already lost their homes in years past due to earthquakes and floods that have repeatedly struck the region.)

In an effort to provide humanitarian assistance, Cause & Affect arrived in the distressed region in search of the most effective way to help.

After speaking with the local mayor and relief professionals, we discovered that most of the victims’ day-to-day humanitarian needs (food, water and medicine) were already being addressed by the government and other organizations. We were also informed that residents from outlying areas, while affected by the same mudslide, were often out of the relief loop.

1) We discovered Don Luciano Montano, an 80 year-old man whose shack had been destroyed by the torrent of mud that engulfed him and nearly carried him away to his death. El Anciano (“the old man”) as locals call him lives all alone with no savings to fall back on. Widowed and maimed by a sugar-mill accident, he has had his home destroyed by two earthquakes in years past. Today, he scrapes by on whatever manual labor he can find, a most punishing existence for a frail, elderly man.

Once we got to know this gentle soul and recognized his determination to somehow survive despite his apparent helplessness, Cause & Affect jumped into action. With the encouragement (and utter disbelief) of Don Montano, we built the old man a new house. Wasting no time, we immediately bought the supplies and called upon his helpful neighbors for their volunteered time for construction. Two days later, our hard-working and wise old friend cried as he thanked Cause & Affect for rescuing him. Most incredibly, we built the entire house (albeit a very simple one) for a grand total of $300. As you can see, Cause & Affect finds the most DIRECT form of giving with the donations we receive! I urge you to watch this inspiring 4-minute video.

2) Working in association with the local Peace Corps office, we met the Dimas family. On the fateful night of the mudslide, Dona Priscilla Dimas lost her mother, two grandmothers, her grandfather and her 8 year-old son Kevin. Her home and all her belongings were completely destroyed. Since many Peace Corps volunteers had stayed with this family in years past, Cause & Affect is spearheading a fund-raising drive amongst Peace Corps volunteers (past and present) and their friends and families to try to assist the Dimas family, as they will need to build a home in a safer part of town. We produced this video, which is being distributed through the Peace Corps network and also started the aid with a $100 donation towards food and medicine for the remaining members of the family.

Special thanks to my mentor Marc Gold of 100 Friends for leading the path in helping so many elderly people in need around the world.

Thank you for all of your generous donations - you can see the positive change taking place! To give, simply click here.

For those interested in some culinary adventures, C&A Chairman Adam Carter is a guest-blogger for, and writes here about pig's head soup.

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