Judy Bergen of Abbotsford was sleeping late Saturday night when she was awakened by a boom.
This was different than the regular earthquakes she had felt in Guatemala so she drifted back to sleep.
The following day, she was headed out for lunch when it started to “rain,” but this rain was grey and had fine sand in it.
She looked up at the sky, and it was then that she knew the nearby Fuego volcano had erupted.
The sky grew darker and darker, and two hours later it slowed down. But then the devastation became apparent.
Fuego spewed ash and lava, and several villages, without warning, found themselves in the path of the lava flow.
The result is a death toll that had reached almost 70 by Tuesday morning – many of whom died from the lava fumes or were burned – and the evacuation of almost 3,300 people. Many are still missing.
Bergen has been living in the village of Jocotenango, which is about a 40-minute drive northeast of the volcano, since 2010. She still resides in Abbotsford when she is not in Guatemala.
She runs a charity called Love Guatemala, which she and her husband, Phil, began many years ago in Abbotsford after a trip there to visit one of their three children.
They felt called to respond to the needs of the Guatemalan people and they sold their home, discarded most of their possessions and moved to the country.
Over the years, with the help of teams from across North America, they built houses for widows, planted crops on behalf of local farmers and fed people at their local soup kitchen.
Sadly, Phil passed away in 2015 when he suffered a heart attack while serving people in the soup kitchen.
But Bergen continues the work, and is now appealing for help for citizens affected by the volcano.
“My heart is in a lot of pain, as I know people who lived at the base of the volcano and in the village of El Rodeo (one of the hardest hit areas),” she said.
Bergen said it is difficult to see the images in the paper and on Facebook of the coffins of those who died, including babies, and the feet of burn victims who tried to run over the crusted lava, not realizing that the fire is still burning underneath.
But she said it is also encouraging to see the country come together to sweep the streets and stand with donation boxes on the streets and in parks.
Bergen said the ash cannot be washed off items because it turns to soap and then hardens, and citizens are in need of clothing, food, water, bedding, shoes, diapers, medicine and more.
Love Guatemala Canada has already purchased many of these items and delivered them to a local fire hall, where they were then part of a three-ton truckload of donations taken to Escuintla, near the Pacific port.
Bergen said cash donations are particularly needed so that she can then purchase and deliver the needed items.
Visit cten.org/judybergen to make a donation.