Local Rotary clubs bring drinking water to residents of Guatemala

Locals representing the Kalispell, Libby and Guatemala Rotary clubs working together on the Guatemala water projects pose for a photo during the Rotary project fair in Belize last month. Photo courtesy of Terri Smiley.

Submitted by Eileen Carney
The average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water every day. Imagine if you had to walk twenty minutes just to take five gallons out of a polluted river every time you wanted water.
Access to clean water is a vital necessity, yet billions of people around the world suffer medical problems because of un-drinkable water.
One of the aims of the Rotary Foundation is to increase the number of people who have better health because they drink clean water.
Local Rotarians George and Linda Gerard, Mick Shea and Eileen Car-ney, along with Rotarians from Kalispell, Mitch McKinley and Terri Smi-ley, traveled to Belize in Central America to attend a Rotary Project Fair. The aim of the fair was to match clubs in the U.S. that are looking for pro-jects to fund with clubs from Central America in need of money. The Mon-tana clubs went with their partner club in Guatemala seeking funding to put a water well in the village of La Vega in Guatemala.
The Libby/Troy Rota-ry Club aims to spend their time and money on local projects that are im-portant to local residents. In addition though, mem-ber George Gerard has taken lead in the creation of a global coalition of Rotary Clubs that will help fund important wa-ter projects in Guatemala. The coalition allows local Rotarians to make an im-pact around the world while keeping local funds in the community for pro-jects that benefit Libby and Troy residents.
La Vega is a resettle-ment community begun about 25 years ago. In the 30 years before that the army of Guatemala at-tacked Indian villages where they thought there were guerrillas working against the government. The villagers were caught in between the warring sides and fled to Mexico where the United Nations established camps for them.
When the war ended, they were resettled far from their own land. The people in La Vega came from the mountains in the north of Guatemala but were sent to the tropical Pacific coast region. No water, sewer or other pro-grams were provided for them. This, of course, causes multiple problems with diseases which come from drinking unsanitary water.
Children and women walk twenty minutes twice daily to attain water from a polluted river. Large towns further up the river discharge their sewage without treatment into the river. Because it is a tropical climate, there are a lot of insects attract-ed to the area. These cause diseases especially for the children. Some people have attempted to dig wells by hand but can only go 20 to 25 feet which does not get them to clean water.
Fundazucar, a group funded by the sugar cane industry in Guatemala, goes to villages in need of help and designs a system for improvement. They have developed a plan for a well, a 15 horse power pump, a chlorination sys-tem, an elevated storage tank, and a distribution system for La Vega. It is designed to provide 115 liters per day per person in the village. Now they need funding.
This is a far larger pro-ject than others undertak-en by the Rotary club of Kootenai Valley. The Ka-lispell Club is taking the lead on coming up with funding for the project. At the Project Fair, they made contact with a cou-ple of groups that might be able the help.
Access to clean water is a vital necessity that we take for granted. It’s hard to imagine that there are billions of people in the world who watch their children die because they have only dirty water to drink. Through the efforts of Montana Rotary clubs, this can change for the better.