By MaryCatherine Karcich, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Generosity and kindness can go a long way, literally.
While the Rotary Club of Westborough is dedicated to serving its community, they are also committed to making a difference abroad.
As part of their international work, the club has been giving back to the citizens of Guatemala thanks to collaborations with GEMINI (Global Emergency Medicine Initiative) and the help of Jorge Yarzebski, a Rotarian member and native of the country. Over the years, they’ve sent personnel from UMASS to provide medical services like surgeries to those in need. But it doesn’t stop there.
In 2019, Rotarians went to install stoves made out of cinder blocks for better ventilation. Guatemalans cook on an open flame on the floor of their homes – similar to a campfire – causing respiratory issues and creating a hazard to children. Now, thanks to these new stoves, people are not getting sick like they used to.
Despite the stark differences in what one of these stoves would look like next to something we might buy at our local Home Depot, residents were grateful.
“A hands-on approach project affords a new perspective of what we value and what is important in life,” said Rotarian David Kaiser.
As the old adage goes, ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’
Several years ago, the club helped donate an ambulance that now provides medical and emergency services to the residents of Coatepeque, Colomba, and surrounding rural villages in Guatemala. Nelson Ball, the club’s founding president, along with his wife Sylvia, made a personal donation to help make it all possible, and their names can be seen on the side of the ambulance.
“Nelson is extremely generous locally, but he also has a heart for international work,” said former Westborough president Betsy Moquin, of Ball.
More recently, the club helped purchase a fire truck that was driven from Galveston, TX back to Guatemala. Despite the truck being used, it made a world of difference for residents, potentially saving many lives.
These trips have given travelers a better understanding of what life looks like in other countries where some services are not common and are often taken for granted in the U.S. Here, somebody responds immediately if we call for help. Many communities in Guatemala do not have the same luxury. Being gifted the ambulance and fire truck was what Yarzebski described as “a dream come true” for residents.
The power of kindness
While there may be miles between Westborough and Guatemala, Moquin recognized that doing something nice for others should not have limits. It also goes to show what good can come out of generosity.
A Zoom call the Westborough Rotarians had with the Coatepeque-Colomba Rotary Club and the Coatepeque Fire Chief Erick Sempe “made the world seem so much smaller,” Moquin described. Sempe extended an invitation for the Westborough members to visit (when it’s safe to do so, of course), solidifying the relationships that were formed from these projects.
“We come from different countries and different cultures and yet we share this amazing connection with them.”
Ready to serve post-pandemic
Westborough Rotary’s work is a shining example of how we all can make a difference. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a close friend or a complete stranger in another country – there’s joy that comes from lending a hand to those in need.
“It keeps motivating us to help others,” Yarzebski said.
Another trip to Guatemala to provide education on female hygiene was planned for 2020, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. The club, however, remains eager in their quest to give back.
To learn more about the Rotary Club of Westborough or to become a member, visit https://www.westboroughrotary.org.