At the end of February, the Chemainus Rotary Club participated in its first international project, sending nine Rotarians to Guatemala to work with Mayans to improve their homes.
And this Wednesday (April 16), the club members are sharing that experience with the public during a slideshow presentation in Chemainus.
For this volunteer work project, the Rotarians travelled to Guatemala to help disadvantaged people in the Lake Atitlan region. They worked with local residents to improve the dwellings of women and children living in homes with leaking roofs and built bed frames for those sleeping on wet floors.
Tom Andrews, president of the Chemainus Rotary Club, says the experience brought out a lot of different emotions.
“It was a real eye-opener in terms of seeing how these people live in such poor conditions,” he said.
The Rotarians worked with the Mayan people, and they found the people who needed help the most, such as single women or widows who couldn’t do the work themselves, explained Andrews.
“It was very rewarding to see them be so appreciative of what we were doing,” he said. “What was also rewarding is even though this is extreme poverty, children are very happy.”
Andrews says children would recognize them walking down the street and hug them.
“That was very emotional, to see that happiness and make that connection with them,” he said.
The Rotarians worked closely with the local people to ensure they were making a positive impact. Instead of going down to Guatemala and just telling them what they needed, the Rotarians chose to do what the locals wanted them to do, explained Andrews.
“We weren’t imposing on them,” he said. “We sort of let them choose, and we helped in that way.”
Rotarians Len Lavender, Butch Takenaka, Tom Andrews, Daphne Carlyle, Colleen Davy, Joan Takenaka, Art Carlyle, Ellen Lavender and Shelley Rouse spent two weeks in Guatemala in late February. While there, they cut the lumber for and assembled 50 bed frames and slats for the Mayan people. The locals then had to come and pick them up.
“They were involved in helping themselves,” said Andrews. “We didn’t just give them a handout; they had to take them and install them in their homes.”
While they were there, the Rotarians provided new homes for two families, put together an open-air play area for a mentally-challenged child who was kept inside all day while his mother worked, and they also worked on fixing the roof of a home for a family who lived in a very derelict structure.
“They helped us put it all together,” said Andrews. “It was a very rewarding experience to see them living in basically new quarters.”
The Rotarians also gave out 140 sheets of corrugated metal and lumber for families to use to rebuild their own shelters so they could repair their homes and replace sheet metal to reinforce the framing.
As well, they gave educational sessions about nourishment and how to enhance their diets with food supplements, and they gave out pots and pans to families who had pretty crude utensils, explained Andrews.
“There were nine of us who went, and it was a real eye-opener for all of them,” he said. “It made us appreciate what we have here. Even with the conditions they have there, they’re still happy people. There are kids playing in the street, and just a very simple soccer ball would light up their eyes.”
The club has prepared a presentation about the international project in Guatemala and will be presenting a slideshow Wednesday, April 16 at Mount Brenton Golf Club. Everyone is welcome to join the club for a buffet dinner at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m., and dinner costs $18. Please RSVP by contacting Shelley at 250-246-1484 or email@example.com. Guests can also come after dinner to see the presentation at 7:15 p.m.
To see photos from the Rotarians’ time in Guatemala and read about their experiences, visit their blog at http://chemainusrotaryteam.wordpress.com.