Mission accomplished for Chemainus Rotarians in Guatemala in the pre-COVID-19 world

House construction, gas stoves, shoes and nutrition efforts a boost to residents

Richard Calverley handles the sod turning for a new house. (Photo submitted)

Richard Calverley handles the sod turning for a new house. (Photo submitted)

Just three months ago in early February, the world was a very different place when members of the Rotary Club of Chemainus made their annual humanitarian trip to San Antonio Palopo, Guatemala for the seventh consecutive year.

It was the sixth trip for Tom Andrews, the third for Ken Stanton, the second for Richard Calverley and Denise Stanton and the first for Helen Fowler.

Related: Chemainus Rotarians make seventh straight trip to Guatemala for work projects

The group departed Jan. 31 and it took practically 24 hours to get there. The team flew into Guatemala City and then took a private van to San Antonio Palopo, a hillside village along Lake Atitlan.

It’s a beautiful spot that continues to captivate the returnees and was awe-inspiring for newcomer Fowler. Lake Atitlan is formed by surrounding volcanoes and has no rivers to the oceans but levels in the lake change from year to year, as the Rotarians have discovered.

Panajachel is the major market centre where supplies were bought and the team visited on weekends. Other Vancouver Island Rotary clubs have projects at San Lucas Toliman, a beautiful boat ride away from San Antonio Palopo.

This was all happening in a mainly pre-COVID world, thus the trip proceeded before the extent of the virus started to hit in North and Central America.

“We weren’t aware of anything when we were there,” said Andrews. “No one was even talking about it.”

Since then in Guatemala, “what I’ve heard is the government has put in restrictions on travel between towns,” he added. “It’s impacted people in terms of food supply and jobs, that type of thing.

“It’s tough for some of the poorest people. I think the price of food has gone up and they can’t work.”

The emphasis of the Chemainus Rotary involvement on the tour was on stoves, nutrition, construction and furnishing young children with 28 pairs of shoes.

“They need shoes in order to go to school,” Andrews noted.

“We got the two houses constructed, we supported the nutrition program and we purchased 60 stoves.”

There was no time to waste once the Rotarians got there, knowing exactly what needed to be done from past connections.

“It’s good we keep going there,” said Andrews. “We hit the ground running when we get there.”

On the first day, the site for a new house for Francisco and Josefa and their eight children was cleared and foundation walls started.

To receive a home, members of the family must help with the project. And they’re more than willing to pitch in and do exactly that. It helps having Ken Stanton along to spearhead the movement since construction has been his lifelong profession.

Construction in Guatemala is a lot different, however. For starters, 230 concrete blocks are moved down 73 steps to the work site. Water is carried for the cement in jugs, sometimes for very long distances.

After the foundation and concrete block work was finished at the first site, it was on to the framing and roofing. The wood was secured from a closed school and delivered to the site ready for assembly.

After that, construction began on the second house for Francisca, who’s well-known to all Rotarians who visit San Antonio Palopo. She works long hours in the hotel that houses the Rotarians to support her daughter Astrid and handicapped son Herman.

Work on the house progressed steadily toward completion. The team worked extra hard on the houses this year because some of the regular contractors were not available.

“We buy all our supplies locally,” pointed out Andrews.

Meeting the kids who receive the donations is a treat for the Rotarians.

Soccer balls and uniforms donated by the Cowichan Valley Soccer Association were presented to a Grade 7 class. They were most appreciative, as their parents do not provide funds for sports equipment until later in the school year. The children receive free education only up to Grade 6, then must pay tuition to attend Grades 7 to 9.

Getting shoes was a big deal to children, who cannot attend school and participate in gym class unless they have some. The 28 recipients, selected by a women’s volunteer group, received shoes thanks to the generosity of four donors from Chemainus. The shoes were purchased by Fowler and Denise Stanton and two of the residents.

The 60 new stoves proved to be a hot item, with funding help from South Cowichan and Nanaimo Daybreak Rotary Clubs. A local gas distributor got quotes for the stoves, propane tanks and connectors before a purchase was made.

The gas stoves, tanks and connectors were received for 60 widows and their children. The women must attend training classes and sign a contract to participate in the program. They make weekly payments for gas and when their tank is empty, a full tank is delivered. Part of the payment goes towards the cost of the stove so they own it after two years.

The fuel is less expensive than wood and eliminates smoke so it brings economic and health benefits to the families.

It was another great experience in San Antonio Palopo this year and parting is always such sweet sorrow.

The group returned home in mid-February. Next year’s trip might be in jeopardy even this far ahead of time.

“Hopefully, we’ll do it again next year and put in an application for a Rotary grant,” said Andrews.

“We’ll have to see what the travel restrictions are. We’ll still plan to go down, who knows what’s going to happen between now and next year. Hopefully, things slowly get back to normal.”

Coronavirusvolunteers

 

Ken Stanton and Tom Andrews use some sophisticated survey equipment to lay out the new house. (Photo submitted)

Ken Stanton and Tom Andrews use some sophisticated survey equipment to lay out the new house. (Photo submitted)

This is the reward. Ken Stanton, Helen Fowler and Tom Andrews with some of the family at the end of the day. (Photo submitted)

This is the reward. Ken Stanton, Helen Fowler and Tom Andrews with some of the family at the end of the day. (Photo submitted)

Ken Stanton had lots of helpers to hand him nails and tools. (Photo submitted)

Ken Stanton had lots of helpers to hand him nails and tools. (Photo submitted)

Helen Fowler and Denise Stanton with shoes purchased for children during a pre-COVID-19 trip to Guatemala. (Photo submitted)

Helen Fowler and Denise Stanton with shoes purchased for children during a pre-COVID-19 trip to Guatemala. (Photo submitted)

Ken Stanton standing with Josepha in front of her new house. She was very happy with the results before the finishing touches. What a difference it will make to the lives of her and her family. (Photo submitted)

Ken Stanton standing with Josepha in front of her new house. She was very happy with the results before the finishing touches. What a difference it will make to the lives of her and her family. (Photo submitted)

This is Antonio, son of Francisco and Josepha. He is very keen to help out with his new house. He decided if he was getting his picture taken, he might as well look good and put on his shades for an action shot. (Photo submitted)

This is Antonio, son of Francisco and Josepha. He is very keen to help out with his new house. He decided if he was getting his picture taken, he might as well look good and put on his shades for an action shot. (Photo submitted)

It was another great experience in San Antonio Palopo this year for Chemainus Rotarians. (Photo submitted)

It was another great experience in San Antonio Palopo this year for Chemainus Rotarians. (Photo submitted)

With the help from Rotary clubs of South Cowichan and Nanaimo Daybreak funding for 60 stoves was possible this year. (Photo submitted)

With the help from Rotary clubs of South Cowichan and Nanaimo Daybreak funding for 60 stoves was possible this year. (Photo submitted)

Just Posted

Two volunteers work to sieve a sample of sand and ocean water through a filter, capturing any potential microplastics. (Courtesy of Ocean Diagnostics)
Victoria startup making waves in microplastics research

New products from Ocean Diagnostics will make research faster, more affordable

Willows Beach in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)
Seven days of sun set to shine on Greater Victoria

Special weather statement warns of higher than usual temperatures

Chef Trevor Randle leads a June 21 online cooking featuring recipes – beef zesty lettuce wraps, blueberry strudel and blueberry spritzer. (Courtesy We Heart Local BC)
Free online cooking course explores B.C. blueberries and beef

Chef Trevor Randle calls them the province’s most flavourful foods

Shaelyn Sinnott of Oak Bay Volunteer Services delivers groceries for client Irene Kenny. The organization has kept up delivery of food and medication throughout all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Oak Bay Volunteer Services)
Oak Bay volunteers keep critical services running

Duo drove between Oak Bay and Jubilee three days a week, twice a day during pandemic

Al Kohut, owner of the new photographers GALLERY, checks out Looking Back by David Bradt. The photo printed on canvas is among 50 images featured in the Birds on the Wild Side exhibition showing until July 3. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Photo gallery in Sidney plucks out top bird photos

Birds on the Wild Side show running at the new photographers GALLERY until July 3

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read