Vigilia Volcánica

About the Vigilia Volcánica Project

Oxford Geology Group is raising money to install alert broadcast systems in villages located on the flanks of Fuego Volcano in Guatemala.  These villages are at risk from pyroclastic flows and lahars.  We want to help build community resilience and reduce the risk of injury and death from these natural hazards. We need your help!

We will be posting regular updates of this project and ways in which you can be involved.

We aim to raise funds to install volcanic hazard warning systems for villages on the

flanks of Fuego Volcano, Guatemala.  OGG members will be asked to participate in a number of fund raising activities.  We will engage with Oxfordshire Schools, institutions, community groups and businesses to encourage fundraising and donation activity.

Thank you to all of those individuals who have made donations to the project so far.

Our aim is for the fundraising to culminate at our Fire Mountains Convention to be held in the Amey Theatre, Abingdon School on Saturday January 18, 2020.

The Project

People helping people

Our intrepid, dedicated and passionate team of OGG members, Helena, Suyapa and Lhess have embraced a scoping expedition into the remote, rugged landscape of Fuego Volcano, Guatemala. The team have been attempting to assess the risk to specific villages on the flanks of the volcano and ascertaining the willingness of the community leaders and the local residents to engage with OGG's Vigilia Volcanica Project.  

The team visited the settlements of:

  • Morelia

  • Santa Sofía

  • Yucales

You can read the Scoping Document authored by the team by clicking here

The equipment that we intend to supply is very simple, low-cost but extremely effective.  It consists of VHF radio linked to public address speakers.  Information received from the Guatemalan government agency CONRED and local observations will be publicly broadcasted to the residents of the village at times of heightened risk or imminent, life-threatening hazard.  It's a proven system and by engaging and working with community from the outset, we aim to assist the local people manage the risks of living in this volcanic region.

A number of awareness raising activities are planned to take place during September 2019 with the first tranche of fundraising effort to happen from  October to December.

If your school, institution, business or community group wants to help fund raise for Vigilia Volcánica, please contact Jorge Gaitan via treasurer@ogg.rocks

The location

We've selected the first village that we intend to work with.

We have selected the village of Morelia to be the first community that we will work with during the first tranche of our project.

 

The population of Morelia  is about 3,000 people (some 685 families)

 

The main route of evacuation for villagers  is currently through the neighbouring settlement of Porvenir. The main concern, voiced by the village leaders, is that there are no bridges crossing the river to get to Porvenir. In the 1970s rope bridges were installed, however these have subsequently deteriorated, entering them unusable.  An additional problem with this route is that the private landowner does not want people on the land.

 

When the OGG team enquired how the villagers currently receive alerts to the risk of lahars and pyroclastic flows, the leaders advised that they do not directly receive updates from CONRED or Insimuveh. They explained that Insimuveh (national agency for monitoring volcanic activity and lahars) have a station in Panimache and its via their neighbours that they eventually hear of alerts.  We aim to help remedy this situation.

The Leaders were in strong agreement that having a system in place to communicate alerts and notice of evacuation would be invaluable to their community.

The Team

Members of OGG, living in Guatemala, are managing the project on the ground.

Lhess Leiva

Lhess Leiva was born during a period in Guatemala´s 36 year civil war when the country suffered some of its worst atrocities.  From a young age he travelled with his mother, Suyapa,  an anthropologist, to areas profoundly affected by the war.  These experiences had a great impact on his appreciation of its history, culture and above all his understanding of the enduring will and strength of the people to survive.   

Lhess is passionate about raising awareness about injustices and inequalities he has encountered throughout his life. In Guatemala, he studied Mayan culture for four years and has extensive knowledge of the country’s history and current affairs.  

He has always been a person who prefers to take positive action to use his skills and knowledge to help others.  As a Dentist, he has regularly volunteered his services working with charities to provide free dental care to some of the poorest, most remote, and vulnerable communities in Guatemala.   His work in helping the people affected by the volcanic eruption in 2018 has ranged from raising awareness abroad, bringing together volunteers in Guatemala, and building trusting relationships with the communities in order to support them to manage emergency situations. 

 

Helena Murphy

Helena Murphy is Irish, a Community Social Worker, living in Guatemala with her partner and two children.  Prior to moving to Guatemala in 2016, she lived in the UK for over 10 years where she qualified with a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Southampton, leading on to her work in East Sussex supporting adults in the community.

Growing up in rural Ireland was a great influence on her belief in the importance of culture and community.  This in turn has influenced her professional life by motivating her to always look for the strengths within communities and working together with locals and professionals to overcome problems.   Central aspects of her community work are building trust, working in partnership, and maintaining hope and determination, in order to achieve the best outcome no matter the situation faced.

After a devastating eruption from Fuego volcano in 2018 left thousands of people living in shelters, Helena, Lhess, and Suyapa became involved in the local voluntary relief effort to bring aid directly to the survivors through money donated by friends and family from around the world.  Months later, when the shelters began to close and people returned to live in their homes situated in the high risk zones around the volcano they concentrated their efforts on working in the communities leading to the installation of the first community alarm system in October 2018.

Suyapa L. Velásquez R.

Suyapa has been drawn to social concerns since her school years when she became involved in journalism and through exploring the subject in poetry and literature.  This inherent part of herself has manifested throughout her work and family life.  During her university years in the 1970s she participated in movements to bring about social change by improving the standards of living in Guatemala.  During her early work life she was active in supporting the dignity of people from poor socio economic areas.  She joined trade unions and worked to help improve the general working conditions of workers, always working within the legal framework to enable people to access better housing, education, and health services.  

Later in life she returned to university to study Anthropology, going onto complete a Master of Science in Rural Development at the University of San Carlos. In more recent years she has been able to share her knowledge to new generations through university teaching.  

Her current inspirations remain in working to improve the dignity and freedom of people through her work in researching the development of rural areas and learning from communities.   For Suyapa, meeting the needs of the communities affected by the eruption in 2018 is a continuation of her life work to support the dignity and worth of the Guatemalan people.