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What do stoves and class rooms have to do with each other in Guatemala?
Category: Education | By RAGM, 13-Jan-2012 | Viewed 4595  Comments 0 | Source Bill Lawless, Calgary West Rotary Club
Guatemala is a developing country in Central America that has caught the attention of some Calgary West Rotarians. It started with Evelyn and Clarence Buckley participating in a stove building trip in 2007 with Hearts and Hands Foundation.  They witnessed the vastly underdeveloped school facilities in northern Guatemala's Uspantan, Quiche villages. Since then Bill Lawless and his committee has been hard at work in the role for the Calgary West Rotary Club as coordinator of a program aptly named: Building Basic Education in Guatemala. In an alliance with the Hearts and Hands Foundation which started in 2007 with a presentation about the possible project idea.  Bill has visited there three times since the project was adopted as a WCS project.

Hearts and Hands from Canmore AB, had as an original focus the installation of cooking stoves for the Mayan families which would both improve the cooking fuel efficiency and reduce the adverse affects of high levels of smoke inhalation resulting from indoor open fires. On these trips, additional help is provided by volunteers of the US Peace Corps who act as both interpreters and stove building experts. Bill says that each trip usually has a minimum of 10-12 volunteers from Canada and in total can be as many as 30 individuals. 

Immediately apparent to the stove building visitors was the over crowding of elementary schools and hence the need to build more class rooms but equally apparent was the need to improve the learning environment with better equipment and install cement covered play areas. Bill acknowledges that it is the Hearts and Hands Foundation, that provides to the BBEG program, the majority of construction coordination plus liaison with Municipal officials. The cumulative intention is to increase the number of Grade Six graduates. Improved education for the people of developing nations is almost universally accepted as the best way to improve their health and well being. Education, which leads to better employment, results in economic and community development.

There are others involved in Guatemala-wide education projects. For instance Manitoba's Rotary District 5550 Ripple Effect Program (which accesses Rotary CRCID funding) operates throughout Guatemala. Bill says that, especially in Uspantan, the BBEG project is the operating branch for the Ripple Effect Program. It is really the Hearts and Hands folks however, along with the input from the municipality Bill says, that selects and executes our class room building related projects. 
Funding for the school building activity comes from the Rotary efforts spearheaded by Calgary West and the Canmore AB, clubs and includes matching grants from the Rotary Foundation. Help is also obtained from the Canadian Rotary Collaboration for International Development (CRCID) which advises Rotary clubs, districts and multi-districts on technical aspects of obtaining, through CRCID, grants from the Canadian International Development Agency. Three other important partners include compassionate Rotary Clubs in Southern Alberta and Rotary District 5360 plus grants from the Alberta sponsored Community Improvement Program.

Bill proudly reports that "We have put together approximately $330,000 CND to complete the 38 classrooms by 2013. Since the start, there have been school additions built in 8 villages totaling 19 classrooms plus 3 play areas, 2 kitchens and 1 set of latrines. By spring time in 2013, 19 more classrooms will be finished in 8 more villages".

Success can now be declared for decreasing the Uspantan class room over crowding and up-grading of the learning environment but statistics on graduates will take time to accumulate. Bill has provided a number of photos with captions. We can expect periodic updates from Bill with each successive graduating class. For more information in the Building Basic Education in Guatemala program please contact Bill Lawless bawless@shaw.ca or Doug Jones jones.treetops@shaw.ca from the Rotary Club of Canmore.

Building Basic Education in Guatemala — projects completed to 31 Dec 2011

1 2008 Los Chivitos                 --       2 classrooms and cement play area
2 2010 Las Pacayas                --       3 classrooms
3 2010 San Antonio Chiquito    --    2 classrooms, 1-kitchen, and cement play area
4 2010 Tierra Blanca Pericone  --    3 classrooms and cement play area
5 2011 Xejul                            --      2 classrooms
6 2011 Chipaj                          --      2 classrooms
7 2011 LaLaGunita Chipaj         --      3 classrooms, latrines and a kitchen
8 2011 Baxil                            --      2 classrooms
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