Bruce Sloane hopes his organization’s role in helping build schools in Guatemala will have a ripple effect on the nation’s education system.
Sloane — a semi-retired engineer and immediate past-president of the St. Boniface/St. Vital Rotary Club — recently returned from the Central American nation, where the club is participating in the Ripple Effect Program with Guatemalan Rotarians to build and support the construction of schools in Mayan communities with no educational facilities.
Working with Guatemalan Rotarians, club members help identify communities in need of schools. And if the community can provide a school, the government will provide a teacher, Sloane said, noting the average classroom is built to accommodate approximately 25 children and is between 600 and 700 square foot.
He said club members have played a primary role in the growth of the program since it began in 1998 — two years after the end of the civil war in Guatemala — as they have helped build six schools and supported the growth of others.
"We’re using wood, tin and concrete floors. The schools are not elaborate, but they’re workable," Sloane said. "They also have sanitation problems, as there are no bathrooms or latrines, so we like to build washrooms, too."
Sloane said a key component in the program is the fact local community members are involved in the build.
"It’s humbling, because you see people (in Canada) take more, but you wouldn’t see that there. They just need a hand. Most of the kids have really been marginalized, as their parents are manual labourers. The fact that some schools now have computers represents 200 years of transition in one generation," he said.
"The country is so beautiful and it’s interesting to meet people that only came out of a war in 1996," Sloane added, noting the work in schools is supported by the club’s fundraising efforts, as well as private and corporate donations and support from the Canadian Rotary International Development Committee.
Sloane said the St. Boniface/St. Vital Rotary Club has existed for almost 70 years and has more than 50 members from different professional and business backgrounds.
On a more local level, the club also supports organizations such as St.Amant and Teen Stop Jeunesse in St. Vital and Camp Manitou in Headingley and is also involved with annual Rotary Career Symposium at Winnipeg Convention Centre.
"We are a business club, a social club and a service club all in one," Sloane said, noting the organization is always looking for new members.
Members meet for lunch every Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. at Niakwa Country Club, located at 620 Niakwa Rd.
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