We are a small operation, but sometimes small operations are pretty effective. The disastrous eruption of Volcano Fuego gave us some good examples of when smaller is better.
While larger groups were still mobilizing, we were shopping for baby supplies and clothes.
While other international aid groups were stuck negotiating with customs agents at the borders and in the airport, we were handing out hygiene kits and underwear.
When the shelters reported they had too many clothes, water, and food and really needed deodorant, mosquito sprays, and Pedialyte, we were able to change gears in a second. Our shop-as-we-go model didn't leave us with truckloads of unneeded supplies and allowed us to use donated dollars to address changing and acute needs within hours.
When the Guatemalan government threw out most of the foreign aid groups, our USA and Guatemala-licensed group continued to take donations and deliver food and Bibles to shelters.
When international pressure finally caused Guatemala to accept long-term foreign assistance, we provided a resource those groups could use to handle smaller requests or needs, while they focused on building houses and restoring infrastructure.
MCU Guatemala- or Misioneros Cristianos Unidos- made the most of the monies we received from our USA and Spanish donors. We conservatively estimate that we distributed more than $40,000 worth of new materials with the $13,000 worth of donations received.
Using wholesalers when we could, taking advantage of discounts and giveaways on top of the generally lower costs of buying many basics in Guatemala made this possible. Even Walmart gave us a break once!
By purchasing everything locally, we also avoided shipping fees, taxes, storage, and most other logistics costs.
The lack of a chain of command- it's just us- let us manipulate funds to give us immediate availability. For instance, when a church in the USA said they were putting a check in the mail soon, we flipped funds targetted for our Christmas Project into the disaster pool right away and went shopping.
When the money ran out, but we knew more was coming, I was able to use a personal credit card and reimburse it later. Corporations couldn't be that permitting and nimble.
Besides food, clothing, hygiene kits, and baby supplies, we answered the call for lots of specific requests. Pillows, a garden hose, parts for a broken propane stove, fans, medicines, trash bags, and locally-baked sweet bread are some examples.
We also found a few size XXX-L shirts and underwear for a particularly-uncomfortable gentleman.
Children needed help staying occupied and safe. We provided padding for floors and tons of children's activities like coloring books, bubbles, games, balls, and more. One shelter received new sneakers for their children.
Shelters without kitchens had three meals delivered daily, but nothing else. We provided hot water stations for some of those folks, equipped with coffee mugs, instant coffee, and tea bags, as well as some cookies and cakes. The stations also made it easier on moms bottle-feeding their children.
We were known as "The Underwear Folks" for a while. We wiped out a wholesaler of undergarments and were the most popular people in the shelters for some time.
Then, we were the Bible folks. Over 2500 paperback Bibles made their way into the hands of survivors along the way. Thousands of prayers were shared, too.
Yesenia and I are very thankful for the response of our friends and followers who donated and prayed for the Volcano relief effort. We praise God for letting us ease a little of the burden of the survivors, especially children and their often-grieving parents. We met very few intact families.
Before Fuego, MCU-Guatemala assisted survivors of a major mudslide near our home base. But...
NORMALLY- THE DISASTER RELIEF FUND is intended to provide quick assistance to victims of smaller emergencies. We stepped in to help one of our mission families whose house was seriously damaged in heavy rains.
We also covered the costs of medicines needed for a couple of our feeding program children. The parents are given the option of paying the funds back or paying it forward.
We maintain a fund of about $125 from general donations to use in these efforts.