USC alumni and students help victims of Volcán de Fuego

Despite being in the United States, several former and current USC students contacted different nonprofit organizations to buy water filters, new homes and eco-stoves for those affected by the natural disaster. (Photo courtesy of Gabriella Carrillo Lou)

Four USC alumni and two students have started a GoFundMe campaign to provide long-term aid for Guatemalans who were impacted by the Volcán de Fuego eruption in early June. The money raised from the campaign will be used to purchase 150 water filters from Ecofiltro and Aqus water filters, new homes from the Asociación Bendición de Dios and eco-stoves from the International Esperanza Project.

The GoFundMe page received $15,385 in 15 days, a little over half of the students’ $30,000 goal.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Volcán de Fuego eruption affected a total of 1.7 million people and left more than 3,000 displaced.

“Right now, we need all the emergency aid we can get but in a couple of weeks, people are going to stop donating products such as bottles of water as much,” said Gabriela Bolaños, an alumna who helped create the fundraiser.

According to the GoFundMe page, a team from Enlace AC Guatemala will distribute water filters to schools in Sacatepéquez, Alotenango and Escuintla, three locations in close proximity to the volcano. A team from the International Esperanza Project has already begun installing eco-stoves in the homes of those affected in Alotenango. The nonprofit organization Asociación Bendición de Dios will also begin constructing new homes.

“Because of my degree, I understood the importance of a long-term solution as opposed to temporary help,” said Bolaños, who received a bachelor’s degree in economics and non-governmental organizations and social change.

  “Right now, I’m looking for organizations that are reliable, that are going to help the community re-establish itself in a more sustainable way and help them for the next year or so.”

Although the campaign is still in its infancy, several Guatemalan alumni made a recent trip to the country where they provided supplies such as food, clothing, mattresses and water to those affected.

“I spent that entire first week after the eruption in a haze, splitting my time between volunteering to help out and scrolling endlessly through #VolcanDeFuego [on Twitter], crying as I read stories and saw pictures of what once was but never would be again,” alumna Miranda Mazariegos said.

The remaining portion of their time was spent on coordinating with the previously mentioned organizations to develop a strategy for the provision of water filters, eco-stoves and housing. 

“Every person I know, from the poorest to the richest, is in the street helping,” alumna and co-creator Gabriella Carrillo Lou said. “The poorest people are giving all that they have to help those who were displaced, you see trucks of vegetables given to those displaced by people that are already poor. At the same time you see the company that makes mattresses for all Central America stopping production to make mattresses for the displaced.”

According to Lou, the group realized that the best way to help from the United States was to raise funds and ensure the donations would be sent to Guatemala. In addition to their efforts, Lou stated that the Trojan Family has also been present everywhere during this time of crisis.

Several USC students donated to the GoFundMe page, shared links on social media and showed concern for those who had family members near the affected areas.

“We would like other USC students to take away that there are so many organization, platforms and opportunities at USC to be able to carry a project forward and make a difference,” Lou said. “There are plenty of opportunities and fellow Trojans to help you reach your cause, you just have to have initiative.”