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  • Writer's pictureBruce Clemens

Connecting with Communities

Today Janet Seddon, member of the Rotary Club of Petaluma (CA) and current attendee of the Summit, shares with us some insight from Monday and Tuesday's adventures.

On the afternoon of Monday, January 21st we visited the newly forming community of Sanik-Ya. The land to establish home sites and create the community was given by the parish of San Lucas Toliman to the municipality's poorest families. Delivery of water to the community was planned as a Rotary global grant project. Rotary provided the technical expertise, materials and plans and the community provided the enormous amount of labor, over 1,500 man days, to install a 250,000 liter water tank and clean water treatment filter called a SunSpring . Water is pumped uphill from the San Lucas Toliman municipal water supply tank for over 2 miles where it is then stored in the Sanik-Ya holding tank. Households in Sanik-Ya are hooked up to the holding tank via a gravity fed distribution system. This allows water distributed from the holding tank to be filtered through the SunSpring, providing clean and safe potable water to the community. We were invited to see several of the new homesteads that are being developed as a result of access to clean water. It is a wonderful sight to see these families establishing homes while surrounded by their chickens, turkeys and healthy coffee trees.

Later that day we were fortunate enough to meet folk hero Andres Tos Toy who told us the dramatic story of the first effective strike by the farm workers against the unfair and brutal practices of the large landowners. On Tuesday, January 22nd we enjoyed an early morning breakfast which allowed us time to attend a Mayan ceremony on the shores of Lake Atitlán. The ceremony was very moving with a call for all of us to come together as one community, one world sharing compassion for all living beings. Marimba music was a delightful accompaniment followed by many firework bombs that are believed to wake up the spirits. We then got in our bus, driven by Gustavo, to visit Opal House which is run by Dr. Will  Boegel and his wife Diane. Opal House is situated on a 59 acre farm that was neglected and run down. The land has been regenerated by planting coffee and avocado trees and all the past erosion remedied. The couple has also built a school for the local children using all local materials. They also set up a surgery center in the local Mission hospital where Dr. Will performs orthopedic surgery at no charge.

After some delicious tortilla and guacamole we drove on to Panajachel, a beautiful town on Lake Atitlán, ready for our next adventure tomorrow.

Attending the Mayan ceremony with Lake Atitlán in the background.

The reason to strive for clean water and sanitation.

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