A Real Rotarian "Experienza"
Posted by Mary Engles on Mar 07, 2017
Two Rotarian amigas, Karen Cebreros and Mary Engles, plus two of Karen's relatives, traveled to Guatemala the last week of February in search of a replacement host club (more about that later) for a Rotary International grant that would assist the women coffee growers of the highlands of Guatemala. As a former coffee importer and founder of the International Women's Coffee Alliance, Karen wanted to support the women in coffee. They represent 80% of the small coffee growers and invest their profits in supporting their children and sustaining their community and the coffee industry.
To this purpose, Karen and Mary met with a prospective host Rotary club in Guatemala City -- Nueva Guatemala -- composed entirely of young professionals. At a dinner meeting, Karen gave a presentation on the purpose of the grant and how it would be administered with some help from the HansNeumann Foundation, an international NGO. Mary presented the new club's president, Diego Furian, with a banner from the San Diego Downtown Breakfast Rotary Club -- Nueva Guatemala's very first club exchange banner! The fun evening included a delicious dinner and ended with a fun game of Mexican lottery – kind of like bingo with pictures!
Throughout the week's tour, our group of four visited two small coffee plantations ("fincas") where we saw coffee plants from sapling to maturing and observed the berries being picked. At a coffee co-operative on Lake Atitlan called La Voz Que Clama en el Desierto (listed on Trip Advisor!), we had another presentation by the current director, Andres, and saw coffee pulp being separated from the coffee beans, the beans then being washed, dried and roasted. A highlight of this tour was seeing the maternal and child health clinic -- a single room with a baby-weighing scale, shelves for medicine, one exam table, and its own nurse practitioner -- funded by profits from the collective. Coffee from these small farms and collectives is bought by large exporters and sales and prices are highly volatile.
Our trip was not without sightseeing. We continued on to beautiful Antiqua, built around the ruins created by a series of earthquakes in the 1700's, and finished our stay in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, another beautiful colonial city. Oh, did I mention the coffee was great everywhere?!
P.S.: The President of Nueva Guatemala Rotary Club, Diego Furian, has written to Karen and has accepted our project. All the grant details have been updated and now we need to move the money. I am duly impressed that R.I. grants are all about recruiting the host club through personal relationships and contacts, something we did quite successfully.