Roofs leak, the ground begins to wash away, roads become blocked by landslides and rivers flood, but the people of Guatemala stand strong.
They rebuild, and together they prosper in love, hope, community and courage.
The rainy season, or winter, as many Guatemalans call this time of year, has now settled in.
Because Guatemala is located between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, tropical storms and hurricanes often pass over the country, making it vulnerable to disasters such as floods and mudslides.
Farmers celebrate the rainy season because they can start planting their crops, but the vulnerability of the country also keeps many families on alert when it comes to dealing with heavy rains.
“In recent years, weather conditions have been weird in the sense that we really do not know when the rainy season starts and when it ends,” said Mario De Leon Aleman, CFCA-Guatemala social worker. “We typically expect the rainy season to kick off in May and finish in late October.”
Families take precautions. They respect the power of nature as the rains affect the way of life for many Guatemalans, such as Otoniel, brother of CFCA sponsored youth Wendy.
“I leave home [to work in the fields] with rain gear, even if it is sunny in the morning, because I know it may rain at any time. I put on my rubber boots, my raincoat and my sombrero, and I am ready for work and rain,” said Otoniel.
Landslides and floods caused by heavy rains are often unpredictable, and families are constantly aware of current weather conditions.
“On Mondays and Fridays I go to the river to wash clothes,” said Lucrecia, Wendy’s mother. “If it starts raining, I become aware of the water level and the saturation in the mountains.”
Twenty-year-old Wendy doesn’t like getting wet.
“I don’t like to leave the warmth of my home and step into the coldness of the rain. I don’t like it that my clothes don’t dry fast,” she said.
As a result of deforestation in Guatemala, many people have found themselves with no choice but to build homes in areas prone to mudslides.
The rains affect power lines, light poles and other important infrastructure.
Phone service, Internet connections and electricity become irregular, and drains and sewers collapse in the rainy season.
Landslides and flooding also cause hazards on the road, making it difficult and often risky for Mario and other CFCA staffers to get to work.
“A few years ago, I missed a landslide by a few seconds. It buried a bus in front of me killing and injuring many people,” said Mario.
Although the rainy season can be dangerous for many families, the rain, as Lucrecia pointed out, is also a good thing.
“Humanity must understand that rain is a gift from God and that rain is necessary for life,” she said. “Without rain our crops would not grow and we would not have food.”
Wendy likes how the rain makes everything look fresh and green.
“I love the smell of a rainy morning or the gentle sound of raindrops falling on the roof,” she said.
In anticipation of the rainy season, families take steps to try to prevent the rains from doing too much damage to their homes and property.
Parents try to make sure their roofs are in good shape.
They nail down loose tin sheets and use sealant tape or bubblegum to cover holes in the roof.
Those who can afford it buy new tin sheets to replace old rusted roofs.
At home, Wendy’s brothers dig ditches around their property to help divert rainwater.
Along with many others in Guatemala, Wendy’s neighbors have become more conscious about keeping streets clean so that sewers don’t clog up.
Guatemalans buy umbrellas and use rubber boots, raincoats or nylon to help protect them from the rain.
Many families in Guatemala use containers to collect rainwater.
They use collected water to take showers, flush toilets, wash dishes and clothes, water their crops and provide drinking water for farm animals.
“I remember we once had constant rain for several days and nights and then the river began to overflow,” Lucrecia said. “In a matter of minutes we had river water running across our bedroom. The water ran under our beds and took away the things we had on the floor. We wanted to leave fast but the doors were stuck with mud and rocks. We had to stay in a shelter for a week. Five of our neighbors died that day.
“When we came back I found someone’s closet door and clothing in my yard. There was mud inside our room; it smelled musty, and the walls were cold and humid. We found our shoes, clothes and other belongings on the street and with neighbors.
“It was unreal to see rocks the size of a car in the streets, over fences and crushing everything in their way.”
If a disaster were to occur because of heavy rains, the CFCA-Guatemala staff would assess the situation and, if needed, request help from the CFCA Disaster Assistance Fund to provide families with essentials.
“I thank our sponsors for their continued support through sponsorship, and I thank all of the good-hearted people who have contributed to the CFCA Housing Fund,” said Mario. “They have helped us provide a safe and dignified home for many families who lived in a difficult situation.
“When I am out in the field visiting families I find tough situations, families living in danger and families with inadequate housing conditions. I see this and I wish I was the owner of a magic lamp, to rub it and resolve their reality.”
The CFCA staff in Guatemala is constantly monitoring the weather situation and the safety of our sponsored friends.
Donate to the CFCA Disaster Assistance Fund