Rotary members build schools in Guatemala

GUATEMALA — The Guatemalan municipality of Barillas is starting to feel like home for a few area Rotarians.

Marysville Rotarians Harv and Larry Jubie and Ron Young were joined by six other members of Rotary from Everett, Mukilteo and the University District, as they returned this year to Guatemala, March 4-13, to build two more school buildings in the country’s remote mountain villages.

“This will be numbers 13 and 14 for us in the last 11 years,” said Harv Jubie, who admitted that the 6,500-foot elevation of Vuelta Grande forced the Rotarians to work in thinner air than they were accustomed to, even before they surmounted the additional 200-foot rise in elevation to the first school’s site.

“We couldn’t drive into where the school was located,” Jubie said. “It was in the middle of a cornfield with cabbage patches.”

Jubie expressed his gratitude to the villagers not only for helping the Rotarians haul their tools up from the Hands for Peacemaking mission site, including the 150-pound generator, but  also for greeting them with a marimba band upon their arrival to the site.

“The villagers were constantly helping us,” Jubie said. “They probably gave us more help than we needed.”

The Rotarians arrived to find the concrete completed, the lumber on site and the hillside dug out before they even got there. The two-room school at Vuelta Grande, with its half-room for the principal, took three days to construct, while the school at Recreo took only two days, in part because it was closer to Barillas.

“When you have a country like Guatemala that’s been torn by civil war, its educational processes often get suspended,” said Pete Kinch, executive director for Hands for Peacemaking. “There are groups of people who are uneducated, but who want their children to go to school, so they’ll throw together a few boards around a dirt floor, sometimes with a roof and sometimes not. When we can build these schools, not only do they offer an opportunity for real education, but they become centers for the whole community.”

Of the $30,000 budget for the two schools, $20,000 came from the Marysville Rotary and $10,000 came from the Everett Rotary.

“You hear about the poverty and the stresses that these cultures go through, but until you see it, you don’t really get it,” said Everett Rotarian Liz McCarty, a first-time visitor to Guatemala. “I kept waiting to get to the nice part of town.”

Jubie is already planning to return to Guatemala, and while he’d like to see more folks join him, he acknowledged that it’s easier for retirees to take a week off to do this work.

“You form some relationships with the people you’re working with,” Jubie said. “You feel like you’ve accomplished something when you get done.”

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