Why did the campaign come about?
We travelled to La Palma in September 2021 full of energy and enthusiasm, excited at the prospect of covering a live eruption on our doorstep.
But very quickly we saw at first hand the human scale of this volcanic emergency. Families that had spent generations building homes and business on top of old lava flows saw their houses and plantations wiped out at a stroke. Others had the daily agony of wondering which way the flows would travel next and whether their houses would be safe. Families lived nomadic existences, squashed together with several generations sharing small spaces, often moving to different locations throughout the emergency to ease the burden on one family member or another who had offered to share their home. Tight-knit communities were torn apart and people spent sleepless nights with the stress of daily earthquakes, gases, ash and explosions.
Over and beyond our commitment to document and contextualise the eruption, we felt an urgent need to contribute in a more direct way.
We met Samuel Cáceres Leal on a rooftop in La Laguna during one of our early live Instagram broadcasts with some of our GeoInterns. He was standing photographing the eruption but he himself was torn: as a photographer, he felt compelled to turn his lens to the volcano. But as a resident, with a home in the path of the volcano, he couldn’t enjoy his photographs.
So we worked out a plan to put his photos to good use: by publishing his photos we could keep talking about the eruption long after news crews had gone home, raising awareness and encouraging our followers to make a donation if they were in a position to do so. And we invited outlets to buy them and contribute to the fund. That way we could all help. The SamuLaPalma campaign was born.
Throughout the eruption, we crowdfunded donations for those affected by the Volcano through the SamuLaPalma JustGiving campaign. The campain closed in February 2022, although you can still visit the campaign page to read more about where our funds have been distributed: (https://justgiving.com/crowdfunding/samulapalma)
Working alongside Samu, we identified evacuated families who were in dire need of basic home essentials to make their day to day existence a little easier. And we bought them from a local supplier, Cristobal at Mayorarte in Los Llanos – as a local, he himself had lost property to the volcano. That way, we felt, the money worked twice as hard: buying appliances for needy families and supporting a local business. Below is a heartfelt interview we conducted with Samu in January 2022, talking about how his life has changed because of the eruption, and what his hopes are for reconstruction.
We also worked closely with the La Laguna infant school whose premises had been invaded by the lava. These brave 3-9 year old children lived with the daily stress of the eruption, the noise, the earthquakes, and had been relocated to a temporary school in los Llanos, several kilometres away from their original school. We ran the FFP2 campaign encouraging them and their families to wear a mask for protection from the ash and distributed care packs with seasonal gifts, care messages with adult and child-sized masks. Each pack had a little wooden heart with an individually hand-drawn message and design.
Our junior volcanologist Ben Ireland answered all their questions – first up, a 4-year-old asking what, exactly, is volcanic lightning?
We will continue to work with the school in the coming weeks and months and running initiatives to ensure they are supported long into the future. Among our aspirations is making links to the affected schools in La Palma with other schools across Europe, encouraging forward collaboration. We also hope to use our existing networks of geoscience experts across the Canary Islands to foster geoscience education in schools.
At Christmas we ran a raffle for a free week’s holiday at our historic HQ in Tenerife, a 4-bed property with infinity pool and panoramic views to the sea. We ran the draw live on Instagram on New Year’s Eve.
We are still collecting and distributing donations for those affected by the eruption, which are being distributed through the Tierra Bonita campaign to ensure the funds get directed to where they are most needed. You can read more about the Tierra Bonita campaign and their objectives here: https://asociaciontierrabonita.org/.
The SamuLaPalma Campaign was run for three months through JustGiving before the donations were collected and distributed. This table details the dates, amounts, recipients and reasons for the distribution of funds, up to August 2022. The remaining donations not yet spent will be distributed among those who lost their homes and spoke to us as part of our “Lava Bombs” documentary.