Ways to Help a Natural Disaster in Guatemala

“The sons of Adam are like limbs of each other,

Having been created of one essence.

When the calamity of time affects one limb

The other limbs cannot remain at rest.

If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,

You are unworthy to be called Human.”

(Old Persian Poet by Saadi)


On October 2005, one of the most tragic natural disasters occurred in Guatemala. People of Guatemala who have already suffered harshly from poverty, racial discrimination, genocide, and military violence, have to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Stan. Large populations of villagers are dead, and roads and bridges are destroyed, and there is no access to clean water. On one hand, these villagers need support to rebuild roads, bridges, and access to clean water, but at the same time, they do not want to accept any help from government due to lack of trust. Furthermore, the villagers in the remote Mayan Highlands are highly suspicious of any potential cooperation between independent volunteers are Guatemala’s government, and are not willing to easily accept the volunteers. As mentioned in Persian poet above, as a human being, it is my responsibility to remedy the pain and sufferings of villagers at Mayan Highlands. As a chemical engineering student, I would like to volunteer to restore access to clean water. Chemical engineering, an interdisciplinary field which combines the principles of chemistry and fluid mechanics, has offered solutions to the challenge of lack of clean water. In this paper, I am going to discuss my plan to overcome challenges such as, gaining villager’s trust, crossing barriers of language and cultural differences, and restoring access to clean water.


Gaining Trust

People of Mayan are hurt emotionally and physically by genocide, racial discrimination, poverty, and violence. Similar to animals, humans look for ways to protect themselves and their families against violence, natural disasters, and other potential threats. Humans have difficulty to trust others if they are hurt. The healing process for the Mayan people is slow and difficult due to lack of improvement in their living conditions. Gaining someone’s trust happens gradually and can be achieved through providing selfless service and support, and showing love and compassion to those in need. Additionally, I am going to join Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network and Maritimes-wide network of volunteers that are trusted by highland community. In addition, I am going to have demonstrations of purifying water in front of Highland community and distribute clean water to show them my good intention. Hopefully, I will gain their trust through association with Maritimes-wide network, my selfless service to the Highland community.


Crossing Barriers of Language and Culture

In order to cross barriers of language and culture between villagers at Guatemala and me, I am going to educate myself about their language, non-verbal communication, traditions, and cultural values before moving to Guatemala. In addition, I am going to wear local attire, so local people feel connected to me. In order to better communicate with villagers, I am going to use a dictionary, body language, and drawings. In the case of complete lack of communication with Highland community, I am going to ask for help from other volunteers at Maritimes-wide network, and Breaking the silence network.


Overview of Plan to Restore Clean Water Access


Clean water is an essential element for healthy life, and lack of clean water can cause gastrointestinal diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and acute diarrhea. An inexpensive efficient method for purification of polluted water is to use “PureMadi” membrane. “Madi” means water in Tshivenda South African. PureMadi is a non-profit organization in the University of Virgina that has invented an inexpensive membrane for water purification. The PureMadi membrane is a small ceramic disk that contains nano particles of copper and silver, and it has a high efficiency for removing pathogens, such as E.coli. PureMadi membrane can be used to purify water for families up to 5 members, and it can last for up to 5 years. Furthermore, PureMadi is convenient for villagers because they can transfer water from an untreated source, such as a river or well, into the pot and let it to filter through into a five-gallon container beneath. The flow rate of exit stream from the membrane is one to three liters per hour (Samarrai, 2013). As a result, the PureMadi membrane is an inexpensive system for generating uncontaminated water in a short period of time. Furthermore, the PureMadi membrane is going to promote the health of villagers by providing an easy quick access to clean water. In order to have enough PureMadi membrane for water-purification for future natural disasters, PureMadi membranes have to be stored in buildings that can withstand natural disaster such as earthquakes, hurricane, and flood.



In conclusion, Villagers of Mayan Highlanders are in need of volunteers to rebuild roads and bridges and restore access to clean water. However, they have difficulty trusting their government due the previous violence. In addition, they are afraid of the volunteers that are sent out by their government. My plan to help villagers is to join Maritimes-wide network of volunteers that are trusted by Highland community. In addition, I am going to learn about culture and language of villagers before I start my work as a volunteer. In order to provide access to clean water, I plan to use PureMadi membrane to filter polluted water.



Works Cited

  1. Samarrai, F. (n.d.). U.Va. Nonprofit Organization, PureMadi, Develops Innovative Water Purification Tablet for Developing World. Retrieved 21 March. 2015, from https://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-nonprofit-organization-puremadi-develops-innovative-water-purification-tablet-developing



One Reply to “Ways to Help a Natural Disaster in Guatemala”

  1. I totally get where the villagers are coming from. When they said they don’t trust the government or volunteers. Its so evident from their past and present experiences.

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