PROVO – Utahns are pulling together to help hundreds, if not thousands, of families devastated by the wrath of Hurricane Eta, which caused massive flooding and landslides across Central America.
Hurricane Eta hit several countries, including Honduras, when it made landfall earlier this month.
It devastated the nation's second-largest city, San Pedro Sula, with heavy flooding and mudslides.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' new San Pedro Sula Temple is in heart of the devastation, and construction has been temporarily postponed.
Utahn Matthew Blackburn is the temple's project manager and experienced the devastation firsthand, with the city's nearly 2 million residents.
"I love the Honduran people," an emotional Blackburn said. "The banana crops, the sugar — all those have been flooded out."
Blackburn, as well as another group of volunteers in Provo, are now doing what they can to lend a helping hand.
In the last week, Sara Barlow and several other volunteers in Provo have rallied to collect clothing, food and hygiene items.
"Many of us volunteering tonight know someone or have a relative that has lost everything. They have nothing left," Barlow said. "They say things are worse than when Hurricane Mitch hit 20 some odd years ago."
From Provo to 🇭🇳 #Honduras 🇭🇳 How #Utahns are answering the call for help following the devastation by #HurricaneEta... and how we can help tonight on @KSL5TV... @paravoshonduraspic.twitter.com/7fCDZ30eI4— Garna Mejia KSL (@GarnaMejiaKSL) November 14, 2020
Barlow said their goal is to fill two containers for Honduras by Nov. 20 — their ship date. Barlow said they've collected enough donations, but are still in need of monetary support, which they're accepting through a Venmo account called "Para Vos Honduras."
Barlow added they are hoping to collect $20,000 and are about halfway to that goal.
Moreover, Blackburn has also been collecting financial donations from friends, family and a GoFundMe account to purchase food and supplies.
When Hurricane Eta hit last week, Blackburn's focus shifted from construction to aid.
"(There's) so much need," he said. "We wanted to do something to help, and so we cleared our schedules. I haven't been building the temple, I've just been getting up at 6 a.m., heading to the market."
Every morning, Blackburn and a small army of volunteers, who were constructing the temple, purchase food and supplies before spending the day delivering them to families living in makeshift camps along the highway and Church members where chapel buildings have opened to serve warm meals.
"The church doors are open to everyone who needs help." Blackburn said, "With every delivery, we stop, we hear their stories and take time to get to know them. I feel like one bag at a time, we help people not feel hopeless."
Blackburn said some areas remain flooded and accessible only by canoe.
"It is literally going to be people helping people," he said. "Honduras is not in any condition to be able to get out of this by themselves."
However, another danger is approaching with Hurricane Iota gaining strength in the Atlantic. Blackburn said it's expected to take the same path as Eta, prompting the evacuation of several flooded areas where residents have returned to try and salvage what few possessions they have.
He added there is still much work to do.
"At night I call my wife back in the United States and hope that she tells me that somebody made another donation so that I can go to the market tomorrow morning."
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