San Lucas scholars: Volcano fire and family helpers

A letter from Dennis Evans, who runs the San Lucas Toliman Scholars program (our club supports a number of students in this program in Guatemala):

Dear family, friends and sponsors,

Coming across the lake by boat, after visiting Panajachel, the clouds behind the volcano seemed much darker than usual. When I got home I found that there was a major fire on the far side of the volcano. Over the next eight days there was a lot of aerial activity, as private crop spraying planes joined an air force helicopter in assisting those on the ground. An army detachment joined volunteer firefighters from various communities including some from.Guatemala City. For the first few days, efforts were hampered by strong winds. Then the wind dropped, and an answer to a prayer, it rained. The first rain this year. The next day the fires were finally put out.

Fortunately, no homes were threatened by the fire, the worst in the twenty years I have lived in San Lucas. Serious environmental damage, but hopefully the forests on the slopes of the volcano will eventually recover.

Within the Mayan culture, family is very important. For little children, one of the signs of starting to grow up is when they can start helping the family. Girls tend to help by learning weaving and embroidery. They look after their younger siblings, and many learn to make tortillas and cook. Boys sometimes learn to cook, but I don’t know any who make tortillas!

The family has a constant need for firewood. You can’t just take firewood from anywhere, and sometimes the young people in the family will walk for an hour or more, to where they can cut and collect firewood. Then they walk back, carrying their load. Normally, it’s the boys who collect firewood, but if there are no boys in the family, the girls go.

Attached are some photos of sponsored students helping their families

With the education and health authorities changing the rules frequently, this school year has got off to an erratic start. Some students only have classes on one or two days a week and do the rest of their studying at home, but they are so glad to see each other! Masks and ‘social distancing’ in school, but when they get out … they tend to huddle. At least most keep their masks on for a while, as the law dictates.

A benefactor sent us money to help poor families. We got a group of sponsored students and made up a hundred food parcels to distribute to some of the poorest families in the area. The recipients were very grateful!

Thank you, all of you, for your continued support and encouragement. These are challenging times. As always, the kids here have a ready smile and hope for the future. Thank you for helping give them that hope!

All best wishes,



Fire fighters


Chopping firewood

Heavy load

Looking after baby

Preparing food

Giving food