During a week in which millions of Americans were glued to their TVs awaiting presidential election results, Hurricane Eta devastated Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
For cousins Gabriela Casco and Norman Bonano, that meant the rural Honduran villages their parents had immigrated from were flooded. The Jersey City natives spontaneously began collecting money and materials to send over, and it has now become a full-fledged mutual aid relief effort that the cousins plan to operate through the end of the month.
They’ve raised more than $6,000, much of which has already been sent to Honduras and used to purchase emergency supplies. A handful of bags of clothes and food is also starting to pile up in Bonano’s Masonic lodge in Bayonne.
“It’s a complete disaster over there and we’re trying to figure out the different types of ways that we can contribute, even though we’re here and we’re in a pandemic,” Casco said.
Their efforts are channeled to a town called Atenas de San Cristobal, where Casco’s father grew up and much of his family still lives. A cousin in San Pedro Sula has been purchasing supplies with the money they’ve sent over and has delivered them almost daily to the village, a trip that under normal weather conditions takes just under one hour, Bonano said.
Casco and Bonano’s family regularly visits Honduras and offers financial support for their relatives, so giving is nothing new, they said. But the hurricane relief effort grew to its current scale because of social media.
Casco has been posting updates and requests on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook since last week, and said she has been receiving more and more messages from people interested in contributing.
“Our parents, even before all of this happened, they’ve always helped out,” Bonano said. “They do these kinds of things all the time. We take that inspiration from what they already do and we have the availability of social media, of having cell phones…to be able to do a little bit more.”
People from all over the state are donating, but many are from Hudson County, the cousins said.
Bonano, who lives in Bayonne, is now using his Masonic lodge’s space as a collection point for physical goods on Tuesdays and Fridays. Those will be shipped in bulk in the coming weeks, but the money they’ve been sending to a cousin in Honduras has already been making a difference.
With access to city supermarkets and stores, she has been able to put together supply kits, Casco said.
“My cousin’s father, he has a power washing machine and he actually wants to start power washing the houses because they’re completely drenched in mud,” Casco said. “That isn’t something that would be happening if they were too focused on finding food.”
In Honduras, 1.7 million people were affected by the hurricane, according to the Red Cross.
Tens of thousands of residents of the valley around San Pedro Sula were stranded on their rooftops because of flooding, according to The Guardian news outlet. The economic damage may be worse than the previous most destructive hurricane in Central America, Hurricane Mitch, which caused a wave of migration to the U.S., it reported.
Casco has heard that the water is beginning to recede in some areas of Atenas de San Cristobal, but furniture is destroyed.
Bonano hopes that the fundraiser can maintain its current pace because the need in Honduras remains.
“We don’t want people to forget,” he said. “It’s not only a right now thing. They’re going to continue to need help weeks from now. Months from now.”
Monetary donations can be sent digitally via Zella (firstname.lastname@example.org), Cashapp ($GabrielaCasco) or Venmo (@Gabriela-Casco).
Clothing, non-perishable food, sanitary supplies and medicine can be dropped off on Tuesdays and Fridays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 888 Avenue C in Bayonne.
By: Teri West | The Jersey Journal