Eileen Carney, Rotary Club
of the Kootenai Valley
Members of the Rotary Club of Kootenai Valley visited Guatemala again this month to work on bringing water to some villages. The group has had success in finishing three projects in other towns and felt that more progress could be made by co-operating with other groups that are interested in the same goals. Members of Rotary clubs in northwest Montana and of the Montana chapter of Engineers Without Borders also were on the trip. Contact was also made with a Guatemalan group, Fundazucar which is working with villages in the same area.
George Gerard from Libby contacted the Rotary clubs in the area and asked for financial help in bringing the projects to fruition. Three members from these clubs were along on the trip: Sandy Carlson and Mark Rohweder from Kalispell and Hugh Jesse from Missoula. Each club has volunteered to give thirty dollars per member for three years to be leveraged with funds from the Rotary Foundation. The Rotary club in Mazatenango, Guatemala has been a tremendous help in working with villages, providing hospitality and transportation and in arranging a nice hotel at an affordable price.
On this last trip three representatives from the Montana Chapter of Engineers Without Borders also attended and looked over the projects. Mark Rohweder from Kalispell and Carlina Quintero and Pat Murtagh from Billings were a tremendous help because they were able to address the needs and devise solutions to the problems. Since two of them are fluent in Spanish, they were able to make direct contact with the people in the villages to discuss the problems one on one.
On this trip contact was also made with a Guatemalan group called Fundazucar. This is a foundation set up by the sugar cane growers to solve the problems of the people living in the area where sugar cane is grown. It is good to see Guatemalans helping to solve their own problems. They identify villages that are in need of water and create plans for them to solve the problem. The people then must look for funding. Three sites were visited which is far more than the Rotary group could handle. The engineers will write up a report on each one and perhaps find other EWB groups that can help out.
One village that the local Rotary group has worked on for a long time is El Progreso where a well will have to be drilled. The cost of the drilling is very much more than the money that has been raised. It is hoped that a group with a drilling machine can be found that can offer the service at an affordable price.
Because of government corruption and lack of care for its poorest citizens, the issues facing poor communities in Central America look overwhelming. But by having different groups co-operate, a dent can be made in the poverty and more opportunities can be provided for the people in these villages. Maybe that way they would have a reason to stay home rather than to immigrate to the United States looking for a better life.
In Spanish there is a saying: Poco a poco se va lejos. Little by little you go a long way. The Rotary Club of Kootenai Valley knows exactly what that means.