We sit comfortably in our living rooms surfing the net enjoying the holiday season, looking forward to New Years celebrations. In North America the custom is to wish each other a happy new year. In some Latin American Countries the wish to another is for a prosperous one.   Yet, there are many people throughout the world whose only wish is to have food and shelter for their families, and merely be alive during the coming year. Such is the case for the survivors of Hurricane Mitch; a storm which has devastated Honduras and it's several neighboring countries in Central American.  In it's wake, over 10,000 persons were killed, with thousands more missing. When all is said and done, millions of people in the region will have been affected by this natural disaster. The capital city of Honduras, Tegucigalpa is covered in a blanket of mud.

Numerous organizations are coming to the aid of the survivors. The worldwide governing body for soccer  for instance; the Federation Internationale de Football (FIFA)  is considering methods of providing  aid to the region. (See Story). Recently there were soccer tournaments conducted in California, and Washington DC, USA featuring superstars from Central American national teams and clubs. The goal this time however is merely to help rather than win.  Remaining constistant with that theme, and having an international audience, we felt a responsibility, no an obligation as to assist to whatever extent we could.  For that reason we have included in this edition, an exclusive interview conducted with Ann Stingle who is the International Spokesperson for the American Red Cross.  Ms. Stingle tells us how international relief organizations such as the American Red Cross are dealing with the crisis, as well as how we as individuals can assist in the relief effort.

LA CANCHA: What is the magnitude of the Hurricane Mitch in Central America or rather what are the areas which are most critically affected area?
STINGLE: Although Hurricane Mitch has spread across Central America, the most critically affected countries are Honduras and Nicaragua as well as  El Salvador, Guatemala and to some extent Coast Rica and Belize.  All of those countries have been affected by the Hurricane. Every has seen the pictures which show the storm to have been deadly and devastating particularly in Honduras and Nicaragua.  With thousands dead, I don't think we'll ever the exact number of people who died. THey were simply very swiftly buried alive in mud in many cases or swept away in swollen rivers. Although there are thousands who have lost their lives. there are many more thousands have been left homes and whose lives have been ruined by the storm.

LA CANCHA: What will be th specific function of the Red Cross in this particular disaster relief effort?
STINGLE: Well, the Red Cross in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador all have Red Cross organizations.  They will at first participate in evacuation and rescue and they are helping to support local shelters in terms of food, blankets and volunteers. They will provide first aid emergency and medical assistance. The Red Cross around the world is pitching in to help in this situation.  Each chapter are organizing their relief efforts to ultimately be a part of the overall international Red Cross response and certainly the American Red Cross is a part of that.

LA CANCHA: Our magazine has an international audience consisting of futbol/soccer fans. Many of those persons reading this article will want to know what  it is they can do. What would be your advise to those individuals who want to assist in this relief effort?
STINGLE: Well the best thing they should do is make a donation to their local Red Cross or Red Crescent organization. There are 175 countries with Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies including the Magendavidadom in Israel. So I'd say to make a financial donation to your Red Cross locally. For the American Red Cross people can telephone 1-800-HELP-NOW. The donation can be made by credit card or a check could be sent to the AMERICAN RED CROSS P.O. Box 37243 Washington D.C. 20013.

LA CANCHA: What percentage of the funds donated will be going towards the relief effort?
STINGLE: All of it will go, for the American Red Cross.

LA CANCHA: How long have you been involved with the American Red Cross?
STINGLE: I've been with the American Red Cross for over twenty years, and I've been in situations in Somalia, Ruwanda, the Gulf War and various other crisis situations

LA CANCHA: How does this situation compare to the other crisis in terms of difficulty in providing assisting to the victims?
STINGLE: I don't like to compare tragedies however each disaster is unique and this one is among the worst.

LA CANCHA: Do you think that reaching people through this type of media, specifically a internet based soccer magazine will be of some assistance?
STINGLE: Yes I do, I think this is a fantastic idea, particularly with the internet becoming an ever increasing means of people staying in touch. It's people -to- people communication and I think it's excellent.  This is first time Iv'e seen a combination sports, the internet, and a relef effort linked in this manner. I think it is very unique. 

LA CANCHA: Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readership?
STINGLE: Well again, the people of  Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador will  certainly need all the help they're going to get if they are ever going to rebuild their lives and certainly the Red Cross will be greatly appreciative of any support provided.

LA CANCHA; Are you asking for clothing or food at this time?
STINGLE: No, because that tends to create a disaster within a disaster because it blocks the pipeline.  It's better to give a financial donation so that the most appropriate and critical items can be purchased and gotten into the region quickly and efficiently.

LA CANCHA: What are those items?
STINGLE: Water purification, antibiotics, bulk food that is easily distributed.  It's important for us to be able to provide things that can be easily distributed that won't take alot of manpower from the relief effort in order to sort, clean, or divide into groups to send it out. What you have is an infrastructure that is already damaged or closed to destroyed. In that fragile type of situation you don't want to make it worse by sending things that will block the distribution channel. so you don't want to make things worse.

LA CANCHA:  So basically you're saying is that many things that should be bought, will be bought in the area, and distribution channels are already set up to deliver the items which will be bought.
STINGLE: Exactly. The closer you buy to the point of need the greater is the chance of purchasing appropriate items; items which will fit culturally. You will also save on shipping costs

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Webmaster's note:  La Cancha encourages webmasters to place a link on their site leading to this article entitled: "La Cancha de Lagrimas"(Spanish) or "Field of Tears" (English) at http://www.lacancha.com/Honduras.htm.  By simply doing this you will have assisted tremendously in this relief effort.  In turn, we will reciprocate by placing a link to your site in our special links section below.


La Cancha would thank Ann Stingle, International Spokesperson for the American Red Cross for consenting to the above interview. We would also like to thank the American Red Cross and it's webmaster at Disasterrelief.org for granting permission to utilize it's photos in connection with this article.

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Disasterrelief Website (American Red Cross)
SOS Honduras
SOS! Honduras Needs Your Help
University of San Pedro Sula - SOS Honduras