The Momotombo volcano in Nicaragua, which began erupting for the first time in a century last December, stands on the shores of Lago de Managua. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
UMCOR helps families in Nicaragua breathe easier after the Momotombo volcano spewed ash that caused respiratory issues in El Paplonal
By David Tereshchuk*
June 14, 2016 — Nicaragua’s iconic volcano, Momotombo, began erupting for the first time in a century early in December 2015. Since then, farming communities close to the volcano, notably in El Papalonal, just 10 miles from its peak, have suffered heavy crop losses, and families have developed serious respiratory trouble because of volcanic ash descending on their land.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), is working through the National Council of Evangelical Churches of Nicaragua (CNIEN), to bring help to the affected population.
CNIEN has a long track record of developing social programs in Nicaragua, emphasizing preventive and curative health care, responses to natural disasters, general education, house-building, and support for agriculture, as well as citizenship and human rights education.
UMCOR’s aid goes directly to providing food baskets and breathing masks for badly hit El Papalonal families.
“This grant is important to us,” said Laurie Felder, executive secretary for UMCOR International Disaster Response. “This is one disaster that did not make international headlines, but all the same, it overwhelmed the community of El Papalonal.”
“Because of UMCOR’s generous donors, we are uniquely able to respond to a case like this,” Felder added.
The baskets contain basic food commodities, and the masks come with a fine mesh which is washable and can be used repeatedly.
Breath of Life Made Easier
“Breathing is the first and last thing we do in life,” said Rev. Jack Amick, senior director of UMCOR Disaster Response. “The Bible talks about the ruach, the breath, the inspiration that started all things living.” But the residents of El Papalonal have found that gift cruelly diminished for them, he pointed out.
“Where people suddenly find it difficult to breathe because of volcanic ash in the air,” Amick continued, “they have few options. Often, they may be simply too poor to leave. But for this community, the breath of heaven — that which allows them to keep caring for their families — can still be experienced, thanks to a washable breathing mask.”
Amick finds the project inspiring, both literally and figuratively. “Our partners in the field and UMCOR staff have worked together,” he adds, “to find a response to this disaster which is customized to meet the community’s unique situation.”
The hope is that for as long as the eruption-prone area remains safe, the project will allow families to stay on their own land — or to safely make longer-term plans for relocation due to any eventual intensifying of the volcano’s activity.
Your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Relief, Advance #982450, will help families like those of El Papalonal to cope with the aftermath of disasters.
* DAVID TERESHCHUK is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.