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Rotary Happenings: Rotary Club celebrated support they provide to people of Guatemala

By Staff | Jul 5, 2017

Vice President Eugenio Alberto Meijia explained the effect of Roya on the tree just to his left versus the new replanted plants in foreground. PHOTO PROVIDED

A presentation was given to Rotary Club of Sanibel-Captiva members detailing the support they have given to four organizations in Guatemala at their weekly Friday morning meeting.

In April four Rotarians – Past Presidents Bill Rahe, John Grey and Chet Sadler along with Assistant Governor Area 4 Clark Rambo – visited Lake Atitlan, Antigua and Huehuetanango in Guatemala. They met with the local project coordinators to see the impact of the projects on the local community and give thanks for all the hard work they have done. These projects received $48,000 in the form of grants, fundraising profits, and micro financing loans to support the poor struggling communities.

The visiting Rotarians first stop was along the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala meeting with the Ija’tz Coffee Coop. Their coffee fields, located on the side of a volcano overlooking the lake, have been devastated by the coffee Roya or leaf rust. This fungus causes the leaves to fall off and eventually the plant dies.

The $5,000 grant given to the coop helped fund tree nurseries growing Roya resistant coffee plants and large scale replanting efforts. Funds also went for heavy duty spray equipment for spraying organic solutions on the infected plants. The coop also received expert training on best practices for growing premium coffee and how to brew and taste for the quality of the beans produced.

The Sanibel Captiva club gave a microfinancing loan to the La Suiza coffee coop. These funds were raised by the club selling coop coffee at the Arts & Crafts Fair and at Baileys. This year the loan amount was $12,000, which is an agriculture loan given to the coffee farmer based on the amount of coffee he grows. The loan is paid back after the funds are received from selling their coffee in the US premium market.

The small village of La Suiza high in the mountains of Guatemala. PHOTO PROVIDED

This is the fourth year for this loan project. It has allowed the coffee farmers to sell their coffee at a much higher price and have money to support their family and grow their farms. Due to the long distance to La Suiza (three day trip) the group could not make the trip to the village. They were given details by the De La Gente. A company that organizes the Coop efforts.

The next stop was Huehuetanago Guatemala. Sanibel Captiva Rotary Club donated container load of 110 wheelchairs to the Huehuetanago Rotary club. The Huehue Rotary Club are experts in distributing wheelchairs to the needy in the far reaches of this mountainous state.

This container load was $22,000. Thanks to the Wheelchair Foundation, Sanibel Captiva Rotary received matching funds to help get the total funding. They were granted the matching funds after meeting rigged requirements to assure the wheelchairs meet the need. Some of the requirements include a doctor’s prescription approving the persons need, signed pledge that the user will not sell the wheelchair and notify the Huehue Club if there is a mechanical problem, so they can get it fixed. The person is measured for the right size wheelchair, along with having an understanding of how the chair will travel to choose the type of wheel for the chair.

In the communities where the wheelchairs were distributed by the Huehue and Sanibel Captiva Rotarians the atmosphere was joy and happiness. Marimba band music, local food delight and children dance presentations emphasized the impact these wheelchairs have on the community.

Finally, the Rotarians sat down with Michael Ewens from the “Ripple Effect.” This community building organization is operating in the distant mountain Ixil region of Guatemala. This small village was caught in the Civil War between rebels and the Guatemala Army. More than two-thirds of the population lost their lives in the war. The Ripple Effect has received the largest International grant of $16,000 from the Sanibel Captiva Rotary Club. Ewens has lived in the community for more than three years helping the Ixil Indians rebuild their lives with water and sanitation systems, as well as provide fences, seeds and tools to make nutritional organic home gardens. Recently they have received solar cells lighting up their homes for the first time. Ewens hands-on effort has helped more than 150 families rebuild their lives.

Clark Rambo helped transfer a young boy from the hospital wheelchair to his own first wheelchair. PHOTO PROVIDED

Rotary is an International organization. One of their goals is to help those that are in need locally and internationally. For further information contact Chet Sadler chet@sanibelrotary.org or (239) 472-7357.

Rotarians with young family who received a wheelchair for their young daughter. PHOTO PROVIDED