Guatemalan Maya Center aid to volcano victims ‘larger than we imagined’


The Guatemalan Maya Center, the non-profit that educates, empowers and advocates for the Guatemalan community, has about 20 pallets of food, water and medicine set to be shipped a ravaged region suffering from a recent volcano eruption.

“Financial donations are the easiest way to help, but there was such an outpouring support of the community by bringing in items,” said Tim Gamwell, assistant executive director of the center in Lake Worth. “It turned into something larger than we could have imagined.”

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The New York Times reported about about 200 people are still missing in Guatemala and CNN.com said about 110 are dead after a volcano named Fuego, which means fire, erupted June 3 near the city of Antigua. A second eruption followed at 6:45 p.m., spewing hot lava and sending thick clouds of smoke at least 6 miles into the air.

Gamwell said several Palm Beach County communities have been gathering donations, making phone calls and preparing shipping lists.

“It’s people who never thought they really belonged here, people who are getting the message constantly that they are outsiders and are unwelcome.” Gamwell said. “They are now feeling they can make a difference and an impact.”

Gamwell said the pallets will be loaded into the container on Saturday night and will be shipped late Sunday or early Monday. Travel time should take three or four days, he added.

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“But everything has to pass through Customs,” Gamwell said. “We are preparing our packing lists early and sending those to Customs so that when it gets there, it will move through the process much quicker.”

Gamwell said the center has contacted two consulates in Florida, adding it will continue to reach out to CONRED, the government agency for disaster reduction.

Carlton Cartwright, a center consultant, said the center needs more volunteers.

“They’re collecting donations, inventory is organized and they are doing their best to find ways to ship the donations to Guatemala,” Cartwright said. “Almost 2 million people are affected and they are trying to assist at least 5,000.”

Saturday at 8 p.m. is the last day to bring items to the center at 430 N. G Street in Lake Worth, said Micaela Martin, a center outreach staffer. “We’re sending over-the-counter medications like alcohol, cotton balls, Ibuprofen, Tylenol and Aleve,” Martin said. “We’re also shipping lotion for people who have burns. Clothing is mostly underwear and bras.”

Gamwell said the center would love to have additional shipments. “We’d thought we’d only need one, but we’re preparing pallets for a second container,” he said. “But we haven’t even begun the process because it’s so overwhelming.”

He said the center needs someone to pick up the costs of that container before anything can be done. “It’s not time to clean your closet,” he said. “It’s time to provide for people who have nothing and whose entire lives, homes and communities have been destroyed.”



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