Manitoba resident takes action to aid Guatemalan countrymen
Earthquake victims receive new hope as homes rebuilt
WINNIPEG, MB—Salomon Escobar came to Manitoba from Guatemala 26 years ago, but his home country is still very close to his heart. Going back to help was not an option when a 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit the country two years ago.
“I went for the first time in June of last year. We did fundraising in Winnipeg and then I went over there to help people where I could,” says Escobar, who immigrated to Canada in 1988. That effort raised $7,000 which aided seven families.
In August he returned a second time, invited by the mayor of San Marcos, Carlos Enrique Barrios, who asked him to help 12 families rebuild their homes. It was an opportunity he could not refuse.
“There are still many families that have not been able to replace the houses destroyed [in November 2012]. Others live in unsafe houses because they do not have the means to repair the severe structural damage,” he says, adding that the region, which is prone to earthquakes, experienced another 6.9 magnitude earthquake in July.
Escobar uses the funds raised in Manitoba to purchase concrete, steel roofs, nails, electrical wire and other building materials. His brother, who still lives in Guatemala, helps him distribute the much-needed supplies.
The Escobars, representing Volunteers for San Marcos Relief, do not give cash to earthquake victims, but rather assess the individual building needs and arrange to buy the materials and hire local labour.
All building supplies are purchased locally in Guatemala which helps the regional economy.
Escobar intentionally helps those in greatest despair who have been deemed ineligible to receive government relief.
In some cases elderly women, like Concepcion Lopez (pictured at the top), were left completely homeless after the 2012 earthquake. She had only a cow and calf left after everything she owned was wiped out. When the volunteers arrived to offer relief in San Marcos, Lopez wanted to give her calf to those helping her rebuild. Escobar politely declined the offer, assuring her that the privilege of helping was reward enough.
“I want to help people because I’m concerned about their wellbeing. It is just to do something for people who don’t have the opportunity to have the things I enjoy. God put this on my heart,” he explains.
Escobar was also able to help a woman whose home and attached café were completely destroyed. Through his assistance, she was able to rebuild her house and had equipment refurbished to get her business back up and running.
Escobar also provides hampers of food and basic necessities for families in need.
“The most important thing is to bring hope to them with the word of God, to tell them that He will provide,” Escobar says.
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