By Jim Johnston, past governor of District 6760 and a member of the Rotary Club of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, USA
While RI President-elect Gary C.K. Huang has urged Rotary members to Light Up Rotary, the Rotary Club of Lawrenceburg has been leading an effort to light up villages in Honduras in a more literal sense.
In February, our team of 14 volunteers traveled to the country to wire 70 homes and three schools for electricity in eight villages near the city of Choluteca. The volunteers from Lawrenceburg, Dyersburg Breakfast, and Brentwood formed deep friendships with members in Choluteca, our host club. A total of 20 clubs contributed funds and in-kind contributions, adding to a district grant from District 6760, for a grand total of $35,000.
This year’s project is the continuation of a long-term effort to broaden our club’s horizon beyond local community service. Our “eureka moment” occurred in 2006 when Rotarian Neal Beard convinced a group of Lawrenceburg members to volunteer for our district’s longstanding project in Honduras. It was an eye-opening experience for each and every one of us.
“It’s so easy to live in ignorance of how millions of people at our doorstep live everyday of their lives,” Neal later wrote. “But to be there and see how much something as common as a water well, or simple electrical wiring in a home, or a few books, pencils, and paper can change lives, is unbelievably amazing.”
We shared our stories with fellow members at our weekly meetings, and our club’s commitment grew. In 2008, we took a leading role in several villages, and by 2010, we were spearheading the district-wide effort. Spring Hill, Tennessee, and Madison, Alabama, formed their own teams and are independently doing similar work.
Our work began as a series of water projects, but along the way it became necessary to run electrical power into the villages to drive pumps and other equipment. Through various needs analyses, we discovered that bringing power to the villages was a much greater benefit. We had the necessary skill set and experience to do it, so we decided to shift our emphasis. Follow up visits have proven that these projects are not only sustainable, but have resulted in significant growth in the communities we served. Leaders from at least 40 villages have requested assistance with similar projects.
In my mind, the project’s biggest benefit has been how our team members left for Honduras as members of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club, and came back as Rotarians. We are committed to the people of Honduras, and along with our partners in the U.S. and Choluteca, are “Lighting Up Rotary” one village at a time.