Mobilizing Across Borders: Briefing for Hurricane Relief in Central America

Hispanics in Philanthropy Urges Donations for Central American Hurricane Response Fund

Oakland, CA, Nov. 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP), alongside cosponsors LULAC, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, YWCA, and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation shared their commitment to raise $500K for the Central American Hurricane Response Fund, an emergency relief fund, to address the consecutive natural disasters that impacted Central America over the span of a few weeks. HIP kicked off the call for public donations with a $50K commitment, alongside $1K commitments from each co-sponsor. The briefing, held last week, brought experts from Central America and their diaspora in the United States to discuss the impact and strategies needed to support affected communities in the short and long term. 

Shakira Barrera, Nicaraguan-American actress, dancer, and philanthropist best Netflix's Emmy-nominated series, "Glow" welcomed the slate of experts and donors with insight on the role philanthropy has at the moment saying “it’s a large humanitarian task. We’re philanthropists, but if the politics don’t change, we’ll be humanitarians forever.”

Hurricane Eta and Iota have brought a record near 250 deaths by storm-induced floods and mudslides, and 3 million displacements in Nicaragua, Honduras,  Guatemala, and parts of Southern Mexico, since the beginning of November. Given the human-caused environmental degradation and climate change, vast social vulnerabilities, and inadequate preparation by local authorities, these numbers may soon increase. In the context of COVID-19, the moment proves even more dangerous and deadly for those most vulnerable: women, children, Indigenous people, Afro-descendant communities, and those with limited mobility.

“This is advocacy in action - by and for our community. Displaced families have been uprooted under dangerous conditions, seeking refuge in shelters that are already at capacity. Central Americans are facing an unstable moment at the hands of climate change, but we have a responsibility to support long term resiliency, one that addresses the environmental and social inequities faced,” added Ana Marie Argilagos, President & CEO of Hispanics in Philanthropy. “I’m proud to stand with our partners to bring immediate relief and establish stable systems to support future inevitable natural disasters.”

The funds raised will benefit HIP’s trusted partners in Central America that are on the frontlines taking action to support the needs of the children, families, and vulnerable communities most impacted by the hurricanes. Experts from partner organizations of the Central American Hurricane Response Fund included insights below. 

“In Honduras, more than three million people have been affected, especially in the northern region. Of those, more than 100,000 had to flee, some literally only had seven minutes until the overflowing river carrying mud and dirt reached the roof of their homes,” shared Yolanda González from Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación and Radio Progreso in Honduras. “We’ve seen in action how solo el pueblo salva al pueblo with immediate action taken by fishermen who brought boats to rescue people, women food vendors that provided meals, and farmers who sought to provide for other neighbors. There is much to learn from the united efforts of these different sectors including churches, businesses, and local workers on how to respond to natural disasters effectively.”

“In Guatemala. there were three elements that demonstrate the impact of the hurricanes Iota and Eta,” began Luis Paiz, Regional Director American Friends Service Committee in Guatemala. “First, governmental bodies lost three crucial days to mitigate the impact by emitting evacuation orders. Second, were the biosecurity measures implemented in response to the pandemic that were impossible to maintain at makeshift shelters. Third, the extractive industry that promotes the brutal expansion of African palm monocultures in the area. The land tenure and the socio-environmental impact of rivers and mountains where basins and micro-basins are already deeply damaged. These communities were experiencing violent mass evictions by armed groups and today are underwater. Lastly, Guatemala is under a political crisis with massive uprisings set off by the reduction of social programs from the country’s budget in the midst of the pandemic.” 

“Nicaragua is facing three major emergencies: violence and poverty that were already there, the pandemic, and now these two massive hurricanes” stated Cecilia Suárez, Head of office of the Catholic Relief Services based in Mexico. Both hurricanes have caused flooding and mudslides and the statistics on the impact of both storms remain limited due to the remote nature of the affected communities. There are governmental efforts to provide supplies like sheet metal to rebuild and grains for meals but it’s insufficient for the number of people affected.”  

We need to realize that these particular national disasters have affected primarily Afro and Indigenous populations in Central America. It’s important for us to donate to urgent emergency relief funds, but the larger challenge in response to the destruction we’ve witnessed goes way beyond what private philanthropy can do” said Oscar Chacon Co-founder and Executive Director of Alianza Americas. “We can use existing laws in the United States, like Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to do something that has proven to be extremely valuable to communities across Central America. That is to protect families already in the United States that become the most important source of financial support for families via remittances.”

The entire briefing can be watched online here. More details about our partner organizations and where to donate can be found at HIPGive’s Central American Hurricane Response Fund website. 

Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) is on a mission to strengthen Latino leadership, influence, and equity by leveraging philanthropic resources, and doing so with an unwavering focus on social justice and shared prosperity across the Americas. As the leader of a transnational network of foundations, donors, and nonprofits, we are making impactful investments in the Latino community and developing our leaders so they can effectively address the most pressing issues impacting communities in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean. Follow HIP on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


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