I am a grandmother paddling alone over 2,500 miles from Maine to Guatemala. Along the way I will be:
- telling the story of the children who live in the Guatemala City garbage dump community
- honoring their entrepreneurial mothers
- talking about the success of the Safe Passage model school and
- raising funds for additional grades for the school.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Guatemala Connections in Chicago and Rotary's Campaign to End Polio

At RI Headquarters:  The women of Chipastor!
A spur of the moment trip to Chicago led to more Guatemala connections, thanks to an invitation from Marga Hewko.
At the United Nations, while I was in the "green room" waiting to make my presentation, I met Marga Hewko, wife of Rotary's General Secretary, John Hewko.  Marga invited me to attend an event she was planning at her home in Chicago: a get-together of people who are all working on different projects in Guatemala.  Amazingly, since I was waiting in Maine to attend the memorial service of a family member, I had the time.

I booked flights to Chicago that would allow me to attend Marga's Rotary Club, Chicago One (so called because it was the first ever Rotary Club formed).  Unfortunately, the weather delayed my flights, causing me to arrive part way through their board meeting after the club meeting.  But we set up a date for me to Skype into her club meeting from my kayak!

Marga took me on a brief tour of the Rotary International headquarters in Evanston.  One of the first things she wanted me to see was the bathrooms.  Why?  Once I walked in and saw the doors to the stalls I was entranced, as each shows a latrine built by Rotarians all around the world.  I posed at the one from Sumpango, Guatemala.  My first restroom photo on this blog I think.
Deb at the RI Headquarters toilets, posing with the one from Guatemala.
Even better was coming out into the hall and seeing villagers I know, in a life size image on the wall in an alcove.

And here's another photo of me standing beside my Guatemala friend again, back when we were about to cut the ribbon on the new latrine in Chipastor.
Inviting others to come join me in cutting the ribbon on the latrine built by villagers, Rotarians and Rotaractors.
The Guatemala Connections event at Marga's house was wonderful.  It was organized by Marga and Kristin Brown, who has what I think is an ideal job - managing Rotary Service Connections.  While I didn't know any of the people attending, we all knew many people in common in Guatemala and Belize.  We shared information and each of us went away better able to serve.  I learned that the Guatemala/Belize/Honduras Rotary District Conference will to be held in Placencia, Belize while I am kayaking in that area.  Now I've been invited to speak there.  I hope they don't have black tie evening events like ,y district does, as packing formal wear into my little inflatable kayak will not be an option.
Marga Hewko, Deb and Kristin Brown
When I was in Chicago, staying at Marga's house, I felt so at home when I saw a bicycle right there in the living room.  That's how Chris and I live, as I often have a kayak or a tent in the house, as I work on some outfitting.  Marga, John and Kristin were training for the Rotary Miles to End Polio team in the El Tour de Tuscon, a world class 104 mile cycling event.  I was pleased to see they completed the event, and with other Rotarians and staff "helped raise $2.9 million so far. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match the funds 2-to-1, bringing the total contribution to PolioPlus to nearly $9 million."  I was glad that my Rotary district (7790) sent in $25,000 to contribute towards this.  It is such a worth goal to eradicate Polio.  We only have two countries left in the world with Polio, so the end of this goal is so close, but yet so hard to finally complete.  The challenges of culture and politics and religion are making it hard in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  I really admire all of the volunteers and workers who are working hard to vaccinate children, even when they know that others have been killed for doing just that.  It's not too late to contribute, as donations will continue to be accepted through the end of November.
John and Marga Hewko, Kristin Brown, and the rest of the cycling team

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