Rotary member heading to Guatemala for mission – You can help

Above: A mission by Rotarians reminds that some areas of the world still struggle to access clean water. A volunteer trip this month will include efforts to improve sanitation for primary students in Guatemala.

The importance of hand washing has been the subject of many media stories lately. But the need for basic sanitation goes far beyond Coronavirus concerns. And an announcement from Rotary reminds that there are areas of the world where not everyone can easily access clean water.

This month, a member of Southborough’s Rotary Club is headed to Guatemala. There she will help with a mission to bring sanitation to primary school students. The volunteer work isn’t solely about clean water. A month before earth Day, the group of 21 volunteers will also help with important environmentals efforts to improve lives in the region they are visiting.

Volunteers will work to:

provide water, sanitation and hygiene, prevent respiratory illness, and preserve the environment

Southborough’s Christine Narcisse is one of the volunteers. She asked me to share her news. I followed up to find out if there was a way for the community to support her mission. The answer was that she is accepting some donations to give out. Scroll down for details on how you can help.*

Here is the announcement:

When people in developing nations gain access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), many good things start to happen. Waterborne diseases decrease. Children stay healthier and attend school more regularly. And, parents spend less time carrying water and more time helping their families.

With this hopeful vision in mind, 21 Rotarians and non-Rotarians from Central Massachusetts and Metrowest will soon be heading to the Lake Atitlán, Panajachel area of Guatemala. On March 21,** they will journey to the Central American nation for a seven-day WASH mission.

The WASH project is being funded by a $318,000 Global Grant from The Rotary Foundation. The grant money is being used to provide the following improvements at 23 primary schools in nine Guatemalan communities: wash stations; adequate toilets; segregated bathrooms; comprehensive hygiene and menstrual education for both students and teachers; and safe water for drinking and for cooking school meals.

The service-above-self volunteers taking part in this year’s Guatemala mission will help to provide water, sanitation and hygiene, prevent respiratory illness, and preserve the environment by doing the following:

  • Working on the WASH project underway at the 23 primary schools. Shown, is the WASH project in action during the 2018 trip.
  • Installing efficient Onil wood-burning stoves in homes in Mayan villages in collaboration with Guatemalan Rotarians and HELPS International Inc.***
  • Planting tule around the highly polluted Lake Atitlán, so the tall sedge, which grows in dense stands along freshwater wetlands, will help to save and restore the lake by filtering out its pollution.

Make the world a better place

WASH in Schools project (contributed)The WASH project at the 23 primary schools in Guatemala is designed to invest in water and sanitation systems and provide comprehensive hygiene and menstrual education. Those schools were selected due to their lack of access to adequate sanitation facilities.

Education in both hygiene and menstrual health is necessary because girls suffer more due to inadequate sanitation and privacy. The WASH project aims to improve sanitation services in a comprehensive and sustainable manner, including installing filters to make the water drinkable. The Rotary clubs participating in the WASH project have access to expertise and resources available through two of Rotary’s areas of focus: basic education and literacy; and water and sanitation.

Since 2013, the Rotary Foundation has invested in more than 1,000 WASH projects in more than 100 countries. Through Foundation grants and fundraising by Rotary clubs, Rotary volunteers have supported water purification, hygiene education, latrine construction, and waste management throughout the world.

The WASH project in Guatemala is hosted by the Rotary Club of Nueva Guatemala, with participation from Rotary clubs and districts across the United States and Canada. The project is being carried out in collaboration with four Guatemalan organizations: Fundación Castillo Córdova; Associación Pro Agua del Pueblo; Municipalidad de Zacalpa; and Ecofiltro S.A.

“Working on international service projects like this is one of the best aspects of belonging to Rotary,” says Steve Sager, who was on two prior Guatemala projects, including last year’s trip, and will be on this year’s mission. “We come to help communities that seem disadvantaged by our standards, but we end up helping ourselves, making lifelong friends, and doing our part to make the world a better place.”

For more information on the Guatemalan WASH mission, contact Past District Governor Steve Sager, chair of the District Foundation Committee, at

Always working to better our world

Formed in 1905, Rotary International is the world’s first service-club organization. Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the
globe, in their communities, and in themselves.

Solving real problems takes real commitment and vision. For more than 110 years, Rotary’s people of action have used their passion, energy, and intelligence to take action on sustainable projects. From literacy and peace to water and health, Rotarians are always working to better our world, and they stay committed to the end.

To learn more, visit

*Contributing to the cause:

If you’d like to support Narcisse’s efforts you can donate items for her to give out on her visit. She’ll be accepting donations through March 19th and is looking for the following items: baby clothes up to age 1 year, lightweight baby blankets and small stuffed animals, or toothbrushes. (She’s all set with toothpaste.) To coordinate dropping off donations, email

**[Editor’s Note: With constant event cancellations and Coronavirus news alerts, plus recent travel warnings and restrictions, it’s impossible not to wonder if a trip nine day away will be postponed. So far, Guatemala and surrounding countries aren’t listed as Covid-19 hot spots and there aren’t travel restrictions between our two countries. So, I’ve decided to share Narcisse’s news. Let’s keep fingers crossed that things will proceed smoothly for her and her fellow volunteers.]

***I was curious about the wood stoves, so I followed the provided link. It turns out that many families have been cooking on open wood fires in their homes. Impacts cited include:

The inefficient burning of wood for three-stone fires required the women and children to gather huge amounts of wood daily (18,000 lbs per family per year), contributing to Guatemala’s deforestation level of 2% per year. The safety issues for women and the time lost to long treks to gather the wood, combined with the impact of carrying these heavy loads, have detrimental effects on the health and economic well-being of women and their families.

For families that purchased their firewood, this required spending up to 40% of their entire income simply to cook their food.

The more efficient wood stoves are promoted as reducing wood consumption by 70%.

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