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Rotarians’ relationship with Guatemalan town continues from afar

Club supplies chickens, cages and feed for a nutrition program
Young Mayan girl with chickens supplied by the Chemainus Rotary Club. (Photo submitted)

Chemainus Rotary Club members obviously won’t be travelling to San Antonio Palopo, Guatemala in February like they’ve done the last seven years to build new houses and provide amenities for residents of the small village.

But they are still offering valuable assistance from afar.

Tom Andrews has been on every trip to San Antonio Palopo since the club started going there in 2014 except 2015 when he broke his ankle and had to stay home.

“It’s become like an annual ritual almost, planning to go down there,” he said. “We’ll miss it this year. Hopefully, we’ll get back there soon.”

It all started many years ago with the work of Jacqueline Mealing, now Jacqueline Sheppard. Jacqueline and David Sheppard are now members of the Chemainus Rotary Club.

Over the years, the Chemainus Rotary team has gotten to know many of the people in the community while building houses, providing beds and stoves, and other projects.

A chicken project is currently a reality there where each family receives an agricultural course, 10 chicks, chicken feed for the first six weeks, regular visits and a community-built chicken cage. This supplies much-needed protein, a potential business and employs local people.

The women’s Directiva is delivering the courses and making weekly visits to each family.

Ten families on the chicken program are up and running, according to Andrews, and each family has been supplied with cages and 10 chicks as well as feed to raise them.

“We’ve sent money down for 20 more cages to be built for the next 20 families so that’s working well so far,” he added.

The Rotarians are also supplying 50 of the neediest children with a nutrition program.

“That’s easy to manage from here,” said Andrews. “We’re working with a local volunteer group we’ve been working with the last 7-8 years.”

To guard against COVID-19, residents went under strict stay-at-home rules back in November, with no one allowed in or out of the community to keep the virus out.

“The town was very fortunate, they’ve had no cases of COVID,” Andrews indicated. “Their lockdown did work.”

They’re easing their way out of lockdowns now, with businesses such as weaving and ceramics starting up again and schools that closed last March will be reopening Jan. 17.

“They’re working their way back to normal and their spirits are up,” Andrews noted. “They survived this lockdown so things are looking good down there.”

The relationship between the Rotarians and the community continues through technology with regular communications.

Members of Directiva. From left: Petrona, Sandra, Sarah and Brenda. They met to plan the sustainable food project in San Antonio Palopo. ({Photo submitted)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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