ST. GEORGE – Continuing the mission to provide international service, members of the St. George Rotary Club leave at the end of this month to head to Guatemala to help build stoves to help provide sustainable living environments for the Mayan women.
In an annual trip, St. George Rotarians offer their service to work with the Behrhorst Partners for Development non-profit agency to help the people living in the highlands of Guatemala.
The Guatemala Stoves Project was brought to the rotary club to do as an international service project by member Dan Strobel during his presidency of the club about eight years ago.
“My family and I have been going for about 15 (years),” he said. “Every rotary is supposed to have an international project and I proposed we do this.”
Working with other non-profit agencies allows the rotary club to not only build stoves, but provide other valuable resources like dental care, clean water, food and education to the Guatemalan people, Strobel said.
“Each one of these things we can do helps bring us closer to developing these villages,” he said.
Building the stoves for the families to cook on daily is helping decrease the amount of constant smoke inhalation the women receive because of the old, traditional stoves, said Rotarian Ken Sizemore. This cuts down on disease and early death for the women.
The old open fires not only cause detrimental smoke inhalation but are dangerous for young children, who sometimes fall in the fire, die or become severely injured, he said. In addition, the stove helps decrease the amount of wood needed to keep the fire going throughout the day and is more efficient when cooking.
Sizemore, who has been on this service project before, said he looks forward to seeing the people again in the coming weeks.
“It’s amazing to see how happy these people are when they have almost nothing,” he said. “These people are really not that far away but live in such destitute conditions. For $150 we can build them a safer stove and it can save lives.”
Strobel said during his time volunteering in Guatemala he’s learned the value of offering hope to the people in a third-world country.
“You can have hope and these people who have nothing and live under those type of conditions, it often just keeps evolving each generation,” he said. “Through this project, we can give them hope and a brighter future.”
The Rotarians travel to Guatemala with the other nonprofit agencies to help provide the youth with education and dental services along with building schools and stoves.
“These are things we just take for granted and just expect to have living in a first-world country,” he said.
Each year the group travels to a new village, but visits the one from the year prior to see the progress, Strobel said.
“It’s great to see,” he said. “They are just excited about life.”
Rotarian Dan McArthur said bringing the food to the people and helping build the better stoves is a great learning experience in service.
“They are so happy and so thankful,” he said. “These people are so humble and it’s amazing to see what we have and they don’t.”
Rotarian Nick Lang has been going to Guatemala for the service trip for a few years and is going again this year.
“Being part of Rotary is really about serving others not only in the community but throughout the world,” he said. “It really is about bringing hope to them. It’s amazing to see the difference from the prior year. It really is life changing.”
Follow Samantha Sadlier on Twitter, @SpectrumSadlier.
Visit stgeorgerotary.org to learn more about the Guatemala Stoves Project or to donate to the cause.
Story published in The Spectrum on May 17, 2014