Opinion

Good works in Guatemala

Every year, members of local Rotary clubs. travel to other countries to work on international service activities. This year a group of Rotarians from Qualicum Beach and other Island clubs worked in a mountainous area of Guatemala on projects with local people in the towns of San Lucas Toliman and San Antonio Palopa.

These service projects, undertaken and funded by Island Rotary clubs, were coordinated by Rotarians Jacqueline Mealing and David Sheppard of Qualicum Beach, who spent four months arranging the accommodation and work schedules of Rotary teams from Vancouver island. The teams worked on different projects including the construction of washing stations and sanitation facilities. As well, Rotarians provided support for a mobile dental clinic and the repair of widows’ homes often requiring the replacement of leaky roofs.

There are many rural families in this region of Guatemala that rely upon open fires within the house to supply heating and provide for cooking. Often, older Mayan women are blind from exposure to smoke, and children are at risk of serious burns and respiratory illness. Rotarians have purchased and supply small stoves which are a more efficient heating source while providing an excellent means for cooking and preparing meals. Rotarians work with local people to install these unique stoves.

Much of the work directed by Rotarians is intended to assist the Mayan families living in the area, but special efforts are always made to improve life for the children in these communities. During these Rotary visits to Guatemala there are opportunities to distribute school supplies and to assist children in making education an important part of their lives.  As Qualicum Beach Rotarian Dave Bartram stated, “The children are beautiful and show their appreciation with such wonderful smiles at being given an opportunity to go to school. This was a Rotary Moment and makes it all worthwhile.”

Wherever possible Rotarians ensure that the men and women of the region are involved in the service activities, and needed supplies are purchased through local suppliers within their  country. Rotarians pride themselves on making sure that the work they do is sustainable and can be maintained by members of the local community.

Rotary members are committed to the sound stewardship of funds, and so money donated to purchase equipment must go directly to the project. Rotarians travel to the host country at their own expense to ensure that each dollar provided will realize the most benefit to those who need assistance.

Notes: Local Rotary members were involved in delivering funds raised at a Qualicum Beach public fund raiser to assist the people of the Philippines after the destructive tsunami. By connecting directly with Rotarians in the Philippines the money was used to assist fishermen in purchasing small boats which were lost. These fishermen are now able to go on earning a living.

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