By Narayan Murarka, a member of the Rotary Club of Barrington Breakfast, Illinois, USA
Through Rotary, people from different backgrounds and cultures come together to serve side by side and build long lasting friendships. I have seen this first hand in my club, the Rotary Club of Barrington Breakfast, Illinois, USA, which has formed a sister club relationship with the Rotary Club of Guatemala Sur, Guatemala.
In March 2010, I took part in an international service project to Guatemala, distributing water filters to residents of Sumpango, a village near Antigua. We attended Guatemala Sur’s regular meeting and met past district governor Jorge Aufranc and other local Rotarians. We quickly discovered a mutual interest and agreed to pursue service projects together in Sumpango.
Members of my club made more visits to Guatemala, and frequent calls through Skype as plans emerged for a global grant under the Rotary Foundation’s new grant model, Future Vision. As a result of a grant in 2011, we installed a mechanical cow at the Proximos Pasos elementary school in Santa Maria de Jesus, which provides soy milk for about 125 elementary school children.
The grant also established a micro-credit loan for several Mayan women to start a business to sell baked goods using a by-product of the milk production process. We equipped a vocational school in Santa Lucia Milpas Atlas with wood and machine shop equipment. Our team went back to Guatemala to celebrate the opening ceremonies at these two schools. By this time, our relationships with the Guatemala Sur club had grown solid.
In 2012, we decided to pursue water and sanitation improvements in nine elementary schools in Sumpango municipality. The schools had no running water or sanitation facilities. We came up with plans for a large global grant involving multi-country, multi-district and multi-club partnership to finance the project. Over the last two years, over three to four visits per year have been made by over six members of the Barrington club to work on implementation of these projects.
Over 30 Rotarians from the Sur club have hands-on involvement in these projects. They make weekly visits to the schools to oversee the projects. Our two clubs have been working shoulder to shoulder to address challenges as they come up. I’ve had the personal pleasure of staying at Jorge’s home on multiple occasions, meeting his wife Debora and their children and grandchildren.
We are all overwhelmed to see the long lasting impact of these projects. We have built relationships with the local government officials, the local residents, the local women’s council, school principals and teachers, all working together to solve pressing needs of the community.
We plan to continue building on this relationship and are currently outlining a new global grant for the Rotary year 2013-14. The sister club relationship will provide the background and inspiration to continue with these large humanitarian projects. We also plan to have visits between members of both clubs including a friendship exchange.
Rotary brought us together. This is the beauty of Rotary: I was born in India and now live in the United States. Jorge is a native of Argentina now living in Guatemala. Through our clubs, we have built a strong friendship and are engaged in projects in Guatemala. Rotary is a catalyst for encouraging members to “Do Good in the World,” while having fun and building friendships.