Local Rotary Club chapters tackles lack of clean water in Guatemala

February 21, 2020 11:51 AM

To the editor:

Two members of the Rotary Club of Kootenai Valley recently traveled to Guatemala to help provide water to villages where it is currently unavailable. George Gerard and Eileen Carney have helped bring clean water to five areas and are currently working on finding money for a sixth. A coalition of Montana clubs, led by the Rotary Club of Kootenai Valley, is working on this project.

The cost will be $315,000 to drill a well, build a storage tank and install a distribution system. Of that amount, $295,000 has been raised so far. The Rotary Club of Kalispell is organizing the project.

Eleven Rotary clubs in northwest Montana have united to make this possible. Each contributes $30 per member, per year, into a common fund. Money then comes from the Montana Rotary Foundation and eventually the National Rotary Foundation will be asked for money.

The coalition works with a Rotary Club in Guatemala. They were responsible for finding the village, making contacts and doing all the preliminary work that Rotary International requires. Good planning helps guarantee the project will succeed after the coalition finishes its work.

The area the group is working in is one of the poorest in Guatemala — on the southern coast. The village was founded when Mayan Indians, who had fled to Mexico because they were attacked by the Guatemalan government, were resettled far from their original home after the end of violence. They were sent there because it was unoccupied because of the abysmal living conditions. They received no help or services by the government.

Currently, about 1,400 people populate the area with only shallow wells and a dirty river — contaminated from larger cities up the river — to provide water.

Other groups also assist the project. Fundazucar is a coalition of sugarcane growers in the region that inspected the village and came up with a plan, which helped immensely in launching the project.

Engineers Without Borders, working with its affiliate organizations in Montana and Guatemala, designed the system and helps with planning.

Several members of the coalition recently participated in a Project Fair in Antigua, Guatemala. The purpose of the fair is to introduce U.S. organizations that have money and are looking for a project with clubs in Central America that need money to fund their work. Members of the Kalispell Rotary chapter manned a booth and gave out information regarding the endeavor. They received a $10,000 grant from an individual for the project while there.

Clean water is fundamental to healthy living. The fact that, in the 21st century, billions of people have no access to this necessity is an embarrassment for us all. The Rotary Clubs of northwest Montana are going to great lengths to make the world a better place — one well at a time.

Eileen Carney

Rotary Club of Kootenai Valley