Church-donated food, provisions offering relief following Central American disasters

The past several weeks in Central America have been defined by deadly, destructive storms and floods that have claimed more than 100 lives and displaced many more.

In response, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is helping to offer a measure of relief to those whose lives have been upended by Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Latter-day Saint Charities and local members recently delivered a large shipment of emergency supplies and over 120 tons of food to help the many affected by the natural disasters across several Central American nations.

Besides much-needed food, other donated provisions included tools and rebuilding supplies, water, face masks, blankets and mattresses.

Working with local community and government leaders, Latter-day Charities gathered, transported and distributed the humanitarian relief items, Newsroom reported.

“Our unique position of strength is access to thousands of local member volunteers within these impacted communities,” said Sister Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities and first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency.

Church-donated relief supplies are loaded onto a helicopter for delivery to Guatemalans affected by Hurricane Eta in 2020.
Church-donated relief supplies are loaded onto a helicopter for delivery to Guatemalans affected by Hurricane Eta in 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“Disaster-relief supplies and funding may come through Latter-day Saint Charities, but that assistance is enabled by the generosity of our members and distributed by member volunteers living in these communities. We’re so grateful for the critical help they’ve given to serve their communities.”

In response to Hurricane Eta, members in Nicaragua helped gather and donate 80 tons of food, water and hygiene kits for residents of Puerto Cabazas, one of the country’s hardest-hit cities. While floods are decreasing there, several areas remain isolated, Newsroom reported.

The storms also inundated communities in Honduras, damaging homes and 10 Church meetinghouses. Several unaffected Church-owned buildings were utilized as shelter for people forced from their homes.

Meanwhile, in Guatemala, torrential rains reportedly caused a major landslide in San Cristóbal, Guatemala. The saturated soil’s weight ultimately ripped down parts of the mountainside in San Cristóbal Verapaz. Dozens of people are believed to have lost their lives or are still missing.

To help care for Guatemalans in need, Latter-day Saint Charities donated 20 tons of food to survivors in Cobán, Puerto Barrios and Polochic, Newsroom reported.

Members from Cobán also supported hurricane survivor rescue teams, organized food items and prepared food for people impacted by the storm in Church meetinghouses.

Most of the Church-donated items were transported thanks to the support of Aeroclub Guatemala, a local aircraft organization. Pilots donated 14 airplane and helicopter flights, along with their flying expertise, to transport the items to the most remote and highly impacted areas, including Alta Verapaz and Izabal.

“We thank The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their valuable collaboration during this Eta emergency,” said Jorge Castellanos, Aeroclub Guatemala’s president. “We are eternally grateful.”

In Guatemala City, dozens of socially-distanced missionaries and other volunteers recently helped pack donations like food, hygiene kits and clothes.

Full-time missionaries help organize food donations and hygiene kits for Hurricane Eta survivors in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on Tuesday, November 10, 2020.
Full-time missionaries help organize food donations and hygiene kits for Hurricane Eta survivors in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on Tuesday, November 10, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“Any service event strengthens our love for Christ,” Elder William B. Woahn told Newsroom.

Elder Woahn and his wife, Sister Heidi Woahn, are serving as full-time senior missionaries. “Our hearts,” he added, “were filled with joy for the opportunity to serve.”

Other donated items included water, hygiene kits, mattresses and more than 8,000 face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Tools such as shovels, hoes, hoses and wheelbarrows were also delivered and distributed throughout impacted communities. Local Church leaders expect that more than 11,900 people will benefit from the organized relief efforts.