A team from the Abbotsford Rotary Club has returned from a trip to Guatemala, where they took part in activities that included assembling wheelchairs, distributing clothes and helping to build a house for a family.
The trip took place from Feb. 7 to 16 and involved 11 people, all of whom paid their own travel costs.
The local club has donated about $25,000 over the last two years to a wheelchair manufacturing initiative through the Transitions Foundation in Antigua.
The foundation provides custom-built wheelchairs and prosthetics to people with disabilities in Guatemala.
During the Rotary team’s visit, three of them worked on the assembly of 12 wheelchairs over two days.
The group also travelled to Panachel on Lake Atitlan, where numerous women’s cooperatives market home-made textiles.
They visited a firehall in Jocotenango and delivered $900 worth of medical supplies that they had brought with them, and visited housing projects that the club has funded.
They also visited a women’s cooperative for which the club had donated five sewing machines and an elementary school that is in desperate need of a teacher or two that Love Guatemala Canada is linked to.
Love Guatemala is run by Judy Bergen of Abbotsford, and her work revolves around schools, food kitchens, home construction, women’s cooperatives and more.
Dentist Zoltan Keresztes from North Vancouver accompanied the Rotary team and, with two dentists from Guatemala, offered a free dental clinic to Transitions staff and their families, as well as to police officers, fire rescue workers and their families from Jocotenango.
A total of 80 people who had never received dental care were treated over two days, and some of them also received clothing that the Rotary team had brought. Surplus clothing was left with Love Guatemala for distribution.
Near the end of the trip, the entire team assisted with the construction of a house for an English teacher and family working with Love Guatemala.
The group also had an opportunity to tour Guatemala, including historic ruins and a jade factory in Antigua and the Mayan ruins of Iximche near Tecpan.
Team member Dave Loewen said the group returned with some “very strong impressions” about the projects and people they visited.
“The Guatemalans are beautiful people; so appreciative of our efforts to assist them. They are resourceful,” he said.
Team members on the trip were Loewen, Bruce and Lois Beck, Rod Thomson, Doris Woodman-McMillan, Blaine Bailey, Amy Badesha, Andy Bains, Estella Cumyn, and Dr. Zoltan and Jane Keresztes.