Humanitarian Aid Program
AIT Response Team in Alotenango-Guatemala
AITI´s Humanitarian Aid Program aims to provide therapeutic assistance and resolution to communities who have lived through a crisis or natural disaster. It also provides training in AIT trauma treatment in areas with limited resources and great need. Among the projects that have been carried out, are the therapeutic response and training psychologists after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, working with the Navajo reservation in the United States, long-term treatment and training in the Xinca Community in Jalapa-Guatemala (survivors of the 36 year long civil war), among others. This time we have joined forces with Caritas Arquidiocesana to bring treatment to survivors of the volcanic eruption in Guatemala.
Members of the AIT Response Team in Guatemala
Certified AIT Therapists:
Gladys de González
Response Team Leader: Flor de María Palencia
Operations Manager: Ruth Cordova
On Sunday June 3rd the alert nationwide awoke when Volcán de Fuego Chi gag, which translates from kaqchikel to “where the fire is”, erupted generating destruction around it. The volcano is located in the departments of Sacatepéquez, Escuintla and Chimaltenango, to the South of Guatemala City. The eruption left thousands of deaths in the villages who lived on the foothills of the volcano and nearby communities. As a result, homes were lost and entire families went missing. There are a few locations where some families could survive.
Thanks to the availability of the AIT Response Team and Caritas, we immediately started traveling to the area and treating survivors with AIT. At this time, it was agreed that the AIT Response Team will keep traveling to Alotenango every Friday, until it is deemed necessary, to provide support to the population affected.
* The AIT response team took the requested paperwork for the intervention: Personal ID´s, badges of the institution, CARITAS and RENAS (national registry of sexual offenders).
* First diagnostics visit with Luis Cordova from Caritas and the AIT Response Team to determine the best way to help the community.
* We had presence in a temporary shelter where recreational activities were carried out, as well as individual and group AIT Treatment.
* House visits, functioning as homemade shelters for family and friends of home owners. Individual, couples and group AIT Treatment.
* Care to adults in a temporary shelter, direct survivors of the volcanic eruption, with family members missing and injured, who also lost their property and sources of income.
* Care to children and adults in Caritas´ healthcare center, while they waited to be seen by doctors. Direct survivors of the eruption with clear symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociation.
* Attention to families with group therapy, who lost their homes and are waiting to find their missing relatives. Some of them have lost 9 to 10 family members.
* Attention to elders affected by loss of children, grandchildren and several relatives.
Needs and possible complications in the workplace:
* There is a high possibility of outbreaks or disease since there is a significant increase of flies and mosquitoes.
* Therapists must take mosquito repellent and special boots to protect themselves from volcanic ashes. In addition, the volcano remains active, so there´s a lot of fear among the population that the same thing will happen again.
* The Team needs to have drinking water available during and after the treatment in each home and shelter. Therapists have voluntarily taken bottled water for themselves and their clients.
* Work material is required to give therapy to children and adults (games, music, paper, crayons/markers, pens, tissues, garbage bags).
* Lunch for therapists. They arrive early in the morning and leave around 5 pm in the afternoon.
Symptoms and traumatic issues that have been found repeatedly during treatment:
* Grief and loss of multiple family members.
* Anguish and uncertainty because the remains of missing relatives haven´t been found. It is very important for people to be able to give them burial.
* Pain, sadness, anxiety, emotional overflow and emotional abreactions.
* Physical discomfort which appeared after the traumatic events, such as body pain, digestive problems and neuralgia.
* Somatization or emotional dissociation.
* Sleeping problems.
* Fear for the future, especially economically since many families have lost their sources of income, land and all their belongings.
* Concern, fear and anguish for family members who are working on the impact zone constantly, looking for missing people.
* Breaking of the generation line, since in many cases the elder survived, and the children and grandchildren didn´t.
* To stabilize people in cases of decompensation, trauma treatment if possible for people going through this crisis.
* To treat the issues of grief and loss, as well as give emotional support.
* Assist patients in restoring their daily routines.
* Teach emotional containment and teach techniques that people can use in their daily lives.
* Help people develop tools and positive qualities.
* Follow-up weekly to get better results in the treatment.
Our goal is to continue bringing this assistance to people who need it with the support of Caritas, so that victims can have better long-term results, through professional care with highly qualified AIT therapists.