John Mulrooney from the Ladysmith Rotary Club helps Mayan women Mari-Cruz and Gabriella build a prefab cooking stove during a Nanaimo Rotary-sponsored volunteer project in Guatemala. Mulrooney is returning to Guatemala this January with the Ladysmith Rotary Club.

John Mulrooney from the Ladysmith Rotary Club helps Mayan women Mari-Cruz and Gabriella build a prefab cooking stove during a Nanaimo Rotary-sponsored volunteer project in Guatemala. Mulrooney is returning to Guatemala this January with the Ladysmith Rotary Club.

Ladysmith Rotarians headed to Guatemala this January

Ladysmith Rotary Club is sponsoring a volunteer project to work with Mayan people on permaculture.

Ladysmith Rotary Club’s latest project will see the group head to South America in the new year.

The group’s goal is to help enhance economic and educational opportunities for women in Guatemala, a country just south of Mexico.

“It’s a culture project with a women’s centre just outside Lake Atitlan in the San Lucas Toliman area of Guatemala,” said John Mulrooney from the Rotary Club. “We’ve applied for a small $5,000 Rotary grant to help.”

Mulrooney and company will head to Guatemala from Jan. 25 to Feb. 15 and will work specifically with the Mayan people of the country and the area on a permaculture venture.

“They came up with the plan for what they wanted, and we are just there to support. They have use of a couple of hectares of land just outside the community centre there and they want to grow vegetables and raise chickens and ducks. We need to get something going so that it continues into the future,” he said.

Mulrooney explained that the women’s centre was given use of the land by a local Catholic church in Guatemala, providing “they use it wisely.”

He also said the local community centre there is smaller than any house in British Columbia.

“The Mayan people are generally pretty poor, and they came through a terrible civil war in the 1980s. It’s difficult for them. The general population down there works separately from them.”

The Rotary Club will arrive during Guatemala’s dry season, and Mulrooney says a lot of time will be spent on flood preparation for later on in the year.

“They’ll have challenges, as when it rains, it rains,” he explained. “The water will be used economically during the dry spell, and we’ll pour small portions on the plants. It’s going to be total manual labour for growing the vegetables. There’s no machinery.”

“It’s dry season in February and Lake Atitlan is 5,000 feet above sea level,” he added. “At night, we’ll have jackets on, as it’ll be cool, but during the day, it’ll be in the 20s, so dry, sunny, warm and beautiful.”

This trip will be far from Mulrooney’s first trip to Guatemala last year helping a similar group install stoves into houses.

Mulrooney and his wife Mary were inspired by the good work of the small Mayan women’s community centre Mujeres Siempre Vives in San Lucas Toliman, Solala Guatemala, where they were volunteers.

The intention on this January’s Ladysmith Rotary Club-sponsored project is to provide education and training courses for the women, many of whom are single mothers, according to Mulrooney.

Seed funding of $2,500 was raised from Ladysmith and many other Island clubs to earn matching funds from Rotary District 5020, he noted.