A Village Recovers From Agatha


Tropical Storm Agatha destroyed this highland community’s water distribution system, several classrooms, homes, roads, part of the market and more. A large river went off course bringing mudslides, rocks and ruin to the community. It is located an hour from the nearest big city and is difficult to access, yet the highly organized community and many committees quickly took action to put their community back on track. We were contacted a few days after Agatha hit to support their water committee in the rebuilding of their system. We were lucky to have the support of engineers Paul and Kristine Hamilton of Houston, Texas, who dropped everything and came to Guatemala for a week. Through our call for help in the Engineers Without Borders-USA newsletter, Paul and Kristine quickly offered their services.

After 6 days in the field, Paul and Kristen set up a functioning system for the short and medium term as well as created plans for a long term solution. We are currently working with government water organizations in order to fubd for the long term solution. Yet Paul and Kristine also created plans on how to properly reroute the river to put it back on course. They also made plans for how deep and wide to make the river-canal section running through the center of town, in order to protect the community and prevent flood events like this from happening again.

My visit to the community in late July demonstrated the wonderful work of the engineers and the community. The community had only wonderful words to say about the engineers and that the engineers plans and measurements to widen the canal –had already saved the village from another storm that ravaged the area in July. They believed that without the help of Paul and Kristen, the community would be digging out from more mudslides. Although the community is still waiting on heavy bulldozers and machinery from the government to make the canal area wider, the work the community has completed has already paid off. The community was extremely thankful for the services the engineers provided.

Over the past few months, we have also provided medical visits by Peter and other doctors as well as visits from teams of psychologists from Universidad del Valle to help the community recover physically and mentally.

The pictures show areas heavily impacted by the mudslides, the intermediate water system, and the river and canal area for the time being- until they can access the heavy machinery.