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Rotary Happenings: Rotarians hear about Miracles in Action organization

By Staff | Dec 17, 2019

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club welcomed back Penny Rambacher, co-founder of the Miracles in Action, as the guest speaker at its recent meeting. Miracles in Action is an organization that the club has partnered with since 2013, when Rotarians Chet Sadler and John Grey attended a District 6960 Rotary function and learned about it and its selling of hand-crafted beaded jewelry and textiles made by Guatemalan women to help provide an income for their families. With the growth of bead sales, the women could provide a sustainable financial underpinning for their families and village projects, as well for building schools, water filtering systems, installing stoves and solar lights.

Sadler and Grey arranged with the club to provide a few tables at the Arts and Crafts Fair that year so the organization could sell its beaded jewelry and other hand-crafted items, with 50 percent of the sale proceeds to be donated in the club’s name to Miracles in Action. Fair attendees loved the items, and thus began a partnership of providing space for bead sales at the annual fair each year. Last year, the club’s donation was $10,000. But that doesn’t end the money game there, the club then uses the dollar value to acquire a 50 percent matching Rotary Global Grant increase.

Overall the Miracles in Action organization has, to date, produced $5.7 million dollars for special projects in just over 15 years to benefit the people of Guatemala: 25 village water systems, 57 schools, 2,850 vented safe stoves, 2,000 water filters, 760 solar lamps, 500 latrines, county aid projects, nutrition education, preschool classes, agriculture developments-gardens, women empowerment workshops, scholarships, purchasing of farm animals and more. Co-founders Penny and Noreen Rambacher have grown the organization into a wide network of volunteers and supporters who further the mission of helping poor Guatemalan families to help themselves through education, vocation and sustainable development projects.

Penny Rambacher explained at the club meeting that Miracles in Action is now involved in water quality of the rural areas of Guatemala. Climate change has brought about a lack of significant rainfall and the people there are without clean water resources. Stagnant bodies of water are their only water resources close by. Villagers must travel by foot miles away and bring in clean water in four-gallon jugs, weighing 33 pounds, carried on their heads.

Miracles in Action is also teaming up with an organization called the Ripple Effect and its founder, Michael Ewens. The Ripple Effect has helped over 12,000 people have access to clean water. Ewens came to the Ixil region to guide one village through the process of building a gravity fed spring system. This started a ripple that continues to grow. With the Ripple Effect’s help, the Ixil community has completed 15 water projects. They work in collaboration with the community. Men come together to do the labor-intensive work of constructing concrete holding tanks and connecting pipes that traverse mountainsides and thick jungle terrain. Each family contributes sand and gravel and even the local municipality has pitched in with funding for materials in the majority of the water projects. They are currently working in three villages: two gravity spring systems in the villages Ilom and Sajsivan, and one concrete rain collection tank in the village Santa Cecilia.

The Ripple Effect’s dream is to see all 39 villages in the region with clean water. Rambacher gave the club her wish list for upcoming funding of the Ixil Water Project for 2020-2021: spring amplification in La Perla, concrete water tanks in San Jose, and concrete water tanks in Pombaltze, with project costs totaling $116,000. The 2021 Global Rotary Grant/Sanibel, $20,000 with 50 percent matching money from Rotary International total $30,000 funding commitment by August. Now the club has a little while to present the commitment, but with the community’s help and bead sales at this year’s Arts and Crafts Festival it will be financially closer to being able to do so.

One last note, the Guatemalan women who make the beautiful jewelry and handcrafted items work from their homes, which allows them to still take care of their families. They are paid a rate determined by Fair Trade. Miracles in Action is a non-profit with 100 percent of all donations going directly to its projects. It works with project partners with on-the-ground staff in Guatemalan communities. Administrative expenses are funded by the sale of handicrafts and jewelry produced in Guatemala’s cottage industry. The fair-trade business not only helps fund overhead and projects but helps disadvantaged Mayan artisans to earn an income to feed and educate their children. Miracles in Action goes beyond Fair Trade to support the artisans.

For information about the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary. The club meets every Friday at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel; visitors are welcome to attend.