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Des Plaines, Central Territory Headquarters -- December 22, 1998

Salvation Army teams composed of people knowledgeable in agriculture, construction and community health are working alongside residents of damaged communities, helping them restore their lives and communities from the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. Salvation Army disaster relief personnel have met with government officials in various regions of Nicaragua to devise a long-term recovery plan. The Salvation Army has been assisting residents of Posoltega, Nicaragua, since immediately after the hurricane killed some 20,000 people, destroyed hundreds of communities, smashed roads and
bridges, caused dozens of mud slides, ruined water supplies and tore apart the homes of an estimated three million people.

The Deputy Mayor of Posoltega, Mayra Guevara, responded enthusiastically to The Salvation Army's assistance. "We can't buy land for these people and we're concerned about food for them," said Guevara. Over 4,000 Posoltega residents are housed in 15 shelters, including more than 125 people in a small school. They have nothing except their clothing and their lives and the mayor is worried about their future.

Hurricane Mitch destroyed the entire bean crop in this area, and beans are a dietary staple. Although refugee camps have adequate food supplies, officials worry that in about three months, when current supplies run out, the elderly and children might begin dying of starvation. Such thoughts weigh heavily on the minds of government officials such as Nicaraguan Minister of Social Action Jamileth Borilla. "These communities need to start to work, live, rebuild," Borilla said, asking Salvation Army for help.

"It would be great if someone could come and help us rebuild spiritually, physically and morally," said Lieutenant Dioncio Narvaez, a Nicaraguan military soldier. "We have many needs and some of the them are inside of us not outside." Salvation Army teams also include clergy experienced in spiritual counseling who listen and pray with grief-stricken survivors.

Yanira recalls the worst night of her life. She is typical of those deep in grief: willing to talk, but embarrassed at how easily the emotional scars become sobs. Her battered home in the tiny village of Gualache, El Salvador, lies near the Serpent River, a creek sliding through the village. In a matter of hours it rose five feet. As families scrambled for higher ground the river swept away Yanira's daughter-in-law Rosa.

The entire village escaped to the hills where they stayed for three days, without food or shelter, until the storm died down and the Serpent grew silent. As they returned to their ruined community, they were greeted by Captains Esteban and Ileana Calvo, in charge of The Salvation Army in San Salvador, who provided food, clothing and bedding for the residents who had lost almost everything.

Yanira's home was punctured at both ends--the river entered one side and blasted through the other, sweeping away everything they owned. The other two walls and the roof remained standing. It's an appropriate symbol of Yanira's family: the outside is intact, but the inside hollow. The Salvation Army continues to help residents of Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador rebuild their lives.

Monetary donations, earmarked "Disaster Relief," may be sent to your local Salvation Army.