Peace Corps and Hurricanes Mitch and Georges: One Year Later
November 5, 1999November 5, 1999: Information About The Central American and Caribbean Countries Affected
Honduras The Damage: Spread of Disease, destruction of agriculture, mudslides, top soil washed away, potable water contaminated, water and sewage infrastructure destroyed.
The Peace Corps Response: Peace Corps volunteers have worked to help rebuild water systems and latrine infrastructure; replant basic grains and provide income-generating opportunities through production of small livestock; help communities rebuild infrastructure and services.
Crisis Corps volunteers have worked with communities to rehabilitate water systems, build new housing, train unskilled workers in basic construction techniques, assist with immunization campaigns, provide trauma counseling, and work with farmers on mitigation techniques.
The Volunteers: Peace Corps volunteer Chad Anderson, 26, of St. Cloud, Minn., was serving in Morolica, near Choluteca in southern Honduras, when the hurricane struck. Mitch furiously and steadily attacked the southern region of Honduras. More than 400 homes, including Chad's, were swept away. Chad immediately worked with his community leaders to evacuate townspeople to safety. During the days following the disaster, Chad and a local school teacher walked more than 20 miles on wet, muddy roads to coordinate donations of emergency food and medical supplies, picking up supplies from one town and carrying them back on foot to Morolica. He helped organize two temporary health centers which supplied emergency medical aid to hurricane victims, and formed the community into relief committees, including food and clothing distribution, road rehabilitation, and census-taking. He organized groups for latrine construction, and helped with medical brigades, acting as translator and liaison between international aid agencies and locals. Chad finished his two years as a Peace Corps volunteer this past August, and is now working in Honduras as a Crisis Corps volunteer.
Peace Corps volunteer Helen Davis, 25, of Seattle, also works in the southern region of Honduras. She has been working to improve health practices in her community, and to develop youth leaders through life-planning education. After the hurricane struck her town, Helen worked with the local mayor to organize and supervise the building of 70 temporary shelters for 350 displaced persons. The shelters were constructed with wood and plastic canvas, and many families are still living in them.
Brian Redmond, 53, of Shavertown, Penn. was a Crisis Corps volunteer. Brian and several others have helped with evaluating water supply sources and providing technical training for staff of the Honduran water ministry. Brian, a university professor who volunteered for the Crisis Corps during his summer break, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic in the early 1970s.
Nicaragua The Damage: Destruction of agriculture resulting in loss of crops and livestock.
The Peace Corps Response: Peace Corps volunteers coordinated efforts with church, governmental, and non-governmental organizations to get food, clothing, and water to those individuals in refugee areas. Many volunteers worked with local health center personnel and community leaders to explain health hazards of contaminated water to community members. They helped distribute Clorox to purify drinking water. Crisis Corps volunteers trained farmers in soil conservation and rehabilitation techniques, and worked with families to plant community and family gardens.
The Volunteers: Peace Corps volunteer Brady Hamilton, 25, of Pullman, Wash., was working to promote balanced diets for children and collaborating with Doctors without Borders on a de-parasite and supplemental nutrition campaign. Since the hurricane hit, Brady has gone house-to-house in seven villages to educate the villagers on how to prevent cholera and other diseases. He has also helped eight women leaders in his community to start a fruit olera and other diseases. He has also helped eight women leaders in his community to start a fruit nursery and a 10,000 tree nursery. Additionally, Brady is assisting with efforts in the reconstruction of two bridges that were washed out by the storm.
Peace Corps volunteer Stephanie Mintz, 27, of Potomac Md., was a member of her town's emergency action committee, formed after the hurricane, where she helped distribute food to townspeople and to 750 refugees in local shelters. She has trained her community on the importance of boiling their water, and has promoted methods of preventing cholera, diarrhea, dengue, and malaria.
Tom Luben, 25, of Edinboro, Penn., and Michael Tighe, 28, of Escanaba, Mich., served as Crisis Corps volunteers, training farmers in soil conservation and rehabilitation techniques. They also helped families plant community and family gardens.
El Salvador The Damage: Destruction of local sanitation and water services, lessened availability and quality of potable water.
The Peace Corps Response: Peace Corps volunteers train municipal staff members and rural community groups to improve administration and organization skills, provide technical support to municipalities and development agencies, and train community leaders, women, and youth on how to plan and prepare for natural disasters. Crisis Corps volunteers also work with Salvadoran organizations to help them plan and prepare for natural disasters.
The Volunteers: Peace Corps volunteer Barbara Holden, 27, of Auburn, Wash., was on a bus traveling to her site when Hurricane Mitch struck. She got off the bus and walked to her site since the road was blocked by mudslides. After several hours of walking, Barbara joined the mayor and town council in organizing relief efforts. She has extended her Peace Corps service for one year and is currently an adviser to her community's municipal council, assisting them develop a disaster preparedness plan.
Peace Corps volunteer Greg Branch, 28, of Mequon, Wisc., is working on a small island inhabited by 100 families off the coast of El Salvador. All the families were evacuated when the hurricane struck, but when they returned to their homes, they found that salt water had contaminated their drinking water supply. Greg has worked with his neighbors to rehabilitate and improve the community's access to safe drinking water by obtaining a water catchment basin in the island's center.
Bob Findlay, 58, of Des Moines, has served as a Crisis Corps volunteer several times. Most recently, Bob worked with a Salvadoran non-governmental organization to plan and develop a sustainable disaster management plan. Bob, a professor of architecture and community design at the University of Iowa, has helped develop similar plans in the Cook Islands and in Peru. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia from 1963-65.
Guatemala The Damage: Environmental degradation, including loss of top soil.
The Peace Corps Response: Peace Corps volunteers work in community disaster preparedness, water and sanitation system reconstruction, reforestation, community infrastructure and management, watershed management, small business training for micro-enterprise development, sustainable small-scale agriculture and household food security. Crisis Corps volunteers are helping rebuild bridges, repair drinking water systems, and conduct health education workshops. They are also helping develop a papaya project to generate income, training farmers on marketing and production techniques.
The Volunteers: Peace Corps volunteer Onyije Chigozili, 42, of Missouri City, Texas, saw first-hand the damage her community suffered. Homes were destroyed, as were precious crops, including corn and beans stored in metal silos. Onyije immediately partnered with a local non-governmental organizations to obtain funding to rebuild homes and gardens.
Dominican Republic The Damage: Damage to infrastructure, homes, water systems, crops, and businesses. inican Republic The Damage: Damage to infrastructure, homes, water systems, crops, and businesses.
The Peace Corps Response: Peace Corps volunteers serve in some of the most devastated areas of the country working in agriculture, education, the environment, forestry, water and sanitation, child survival, and small business development. Crisis Corps volunteers work with the Red Cross, United Nations World Food Program, Habitat for Humanity, and several Dominican non-governmental organizations on housing construction, monitoring of food distribution, agricultural rehabilitation, and latrine repair.
The Volunteers: Peace Corps volunteer Mary Bosy, 69, of Cary, N.C., was working as a teacher trainer in Hato. When Hurricane Georges destroyed more than half of the schools in her district, Mary shifted her focus to leading a school reconstruction program. She worked closely with eight communities in her province to rebuild their community schools, start school vegetable gardens, and initiate reforestation efforts.
Peace Corps volunteer Steven Patton, 26, of Riverside, Calif., was working as an environmental educator in a community in the outskirts of Santo Domingo when the hurricane hit. Most houses in this 2,500 member community, including Steven's, were destroyed. Steven worked with a local non-governmental organization on a housing reconstruction project that benefited 25 families. He helped establish a temporary medical dispensary to provide first aid to the community, and helped procure two 500-gallon water tanks to provide chlorinated water to the community. He formed and trained a local team to chlorinate the water and oversee its distribution.