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  • Writer's pictureBruce Clemens

Kicking off 2021

The following is a note from our friend Joe Wakely, sent to us in the middle of January. Joe has done incredible work in Guatemala supporting the success of rural water and sanitation projects. He is a great person and we are lucky to partner with him. As you read his words below, we believe you will agree with our sentiments.


Greetings from Guatemala. I have been here now for two weeks. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions, with just enough stress thrown in to remind me that I am no longer bullet proof. I am content to be a small cog in a big wheel of some of the most diverse and talented people I have ever worked with. We all bring to the table unique skill sets, spirited debate on how things should be done. Yes, I have fluffed a few feathers along the way and have received a wedgy or two in the process. However, never have any of us lost focus in the fact that what we are doing is far more important than our personal egos and cultural biases. I don't mean cultural bias in a bad way. I mean an attempt to understand and accommodate thought processes that differ from our own, steeped in tradition and a different collective world view.

One of the most positive experiences for me was getting to know the California Rotary people that made this project possible. They worked their way through countless problems to secure a GlobalGrant from the Rotary Foundation to make this possible. By mid summer we should be able to provide safe drinking water to ultimately 1300 of the poorest people in San Lucas Toliman. I thank you all for your altruistic efforts to accomplish this feat.

However, the most inspiring of it all was the communities of Sanik -Ya , Chitulul that so far have provided 14000 man (and women) days of labor to install 2.5 kilometers of 4 inch pipe to their reservoir and thousands of hours of labor to carry almost a million pounds of construction materials to the construction site. The final push to carry a 10,000 liter tank up a 500 meter trail and then a climb of 60 feet to the top that was more of a cliff than a climb. Yes, I carried it some of the way with tears streaming down my cheeks and I did not see another Gringo that did not have the same experience. The Guatemalans were singing, shouting, celebrating. There were some of them that would not let go of that 1500 pound tank and carried it all the way.

After the the distribution tank was installed, the community provided lunch and a joyous celebration that went on for many hours. Marimbas, children dancing, a dozen or more women cooking, speeches were made, prayers and blessings in three languages. It was incredible and it should be noted that this event involved more sacrifices from this poor community to show their appreciation to Rotary and the private donors that made the project economically possible.

My experience in Guatemala has been emotional, rich and rewarding. It is impossible not to be passionate about the most basic of human rights, without which a society can not flourish. WATER. Meeting new friends along the way, Indigenous, Ladinos and Gringos have changed my life forever. Whatever I manage to accomplish here over the next few years will pale in comparison to what I have received. That is truly a blessing and I am most great full for that.

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