The Rotary Club of Chemainus has been volunteering in San Antonio Palapo, a Mayan village in Guatemala, since 2014. The recent project involved three Rotarians and two Friends of Rotary from January 14 until February 17, 2023. The first project was building a home for a family of four at the top of the village, which is located on beautiful Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanic mountains.
The team joined with a local contractor and the soon-to-be new homeowner for a visit to the building site high on the hills of the village. The hike up to the site was the equivalent to walking up a 45-storey building. It was a great workout! The biggest challenge was moving bags of cement, sand, gravel, concrete blocks, wood, and roofing up to the job site. The family receiving the house must help with the project, and they rounded up relatives and friends to help carry all the product up to the site on pathways and steep stairs.
The work preparing the home site for the foundation began on Jan. 23. Three huge rocks needed to be dug up and broken into pieces first, and the largest stone required four people to remove it with a crowbar and pick axes.
The concrete block work then started and brought a stark contrast to our living conditions for the volunteers. It looked more like one room than a place where an entire family lives. Framing, wood panels, a metal roof, and a concrete floor were installed to complete the 100-square-foot home.
We feel fortunate to build these houses for happy families. Since the first visit in 2014, we’ve gotten to know the community well and build friendships. The house was completed on Jan. 31.
New shoes continued to delight children in the village. Many people in Chemainus made contributions, and students at Queen Margaret’s School in Duncan set up donation boxes there that yielded two full suitcases of shoes.
One hundred children in pre-school to Grade 6 from different neighbourhoods were selected to receive the school supplies for the return to class in mid-February. Schools have been closed for two years due to Covid-19, so the children were anxious to return and happy to receive their supply packages.
Four stoves were purchased for families currently cooking on open fires inside their homes. The stoves were vented to improve the air quality inside the house. Wood stoves were chosen, as they also are a source of heat for the homes.
Rotary purchases included a powdered nutritional supplement known as Incaparina, that is important for so many.
A total of 11 50-pound bags of Incaparina were purchased. Each bag contains 50 packages of the supplement for children ages 1-4 to take twice a month for about six months. The local medical clinic administers the program and monitors the progress of each child’s weight and height.
Other items purchased and donated to select families included food and clothing. One family had lost the income earner, and the donations will help them through these difficult times until work is found.
The families are very appreciative of the volunteer work we do. The experience changes the lives of the Rotarians and the supported families. It gives the families basics like shelter, food, and education, which allows them the opportunity to live a productive and healthy life.