Spa volunteer tells of quake devastation

By Rob George Friday 07 December 2012 Updated: 14/12 12:29

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Vicky and her friend Gemma Hunt (behind) have also been trying to reach the outlying areas of Guatemala to deliver vital food and supplies to local communities. Picture by Vicky Crooks

A DROITWICH woman has shared her experiences of helping disaster hit communities in Guatemala recover from the recent

devastating earthquake which struck the country.

Vicky Crooks, from Mallard Place, told The Standard how she and her friend Gemma Hunt had lent their support to the relief effort after a 7.4 magnitude quake struck just off the Pacific coast on November 8.

Some 52 people lost their lives in the disaster, which saw more than 73,000 people left without electricity. The earthquake was the biggest to strike Guatemala since 1976.

Vicky has been detailing her experiences in a blog and has been living in Guatemala for the past six months in the town of Xela.

She and Gemma had just started preparing to move into neighbouring Mexico when the quake struck.

Vicky said: “The immediate question was whether or not to go back - what could two individual people possibly do to be of any help?

“The idea of an appeal, if it was even needed, crossed my mind – but setting this into action would be a totally different ball

game.”

The pair cancelled their tickets to Mexico and headed back towards Xela to see if they could help locals in the aftermath of the quake.

It was in San Marcos that effect of the earthquake became clear with many buildings so unsafe they had already been marked for demolition.

“Walking around San Marcos and seeing the destruction confirmed to me that even our small effort could make a difference to a few,” she added.

The kind-hearted Spa resident drew on her Masters in Crisis Management and experience of working in Haiti, Peru and Dominica, as a volunteer, to begin drawing up ways she and Gemma could help.

The pair teamed up with the European Disaster Volunteers (EDV) and began to concentrate their efforts on getting supplies and aid to small communities which had not received any help after the earthquake.

Vicky and Gemma visited the village of La Lorna with supplies, including rice, beans, oil, sugar, salt, instant soup, powdered milk, juice, nappies and blankets.

While there, they saw the devastation which led to La Lorna being declared uninhabitable by the Guatemalan government, despite it being home to 486 people and 86 families.

A total of 25 homes had been severely damaged by the earthquake, with many families exposed to the freezing temperatures overnight as a result.

“Many families were now living together and sleeping on the cold floor of the community centre, the blankets were distributed to these to make their nights a little more comfortable.

“In total we gave supplies to 40 families,” Vicky added.

The pair have so far raised in excess of £1,000 to help the victims. Visit www.justgiving.com/GuatemalaEarthquakeAppeal to donate.

Visit http://guatemalaearthquake2012.blogspot.co.uk/ to read more about Vicky’s experiences.

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Vicky Crooks, the Droitwich woman involved in the relief effort after the Guatemala earthquake. (s)

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Buy photos» 52 people died in the 7.4-magnitude earthquake which struck off the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Picture by Vicky Crooks

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Some of the devastation in the town of San Marcos caused by the earthquake. Picture by Vicky Crooks

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