Wednesday, July 26, 2017

To Guatemala and Back ...

Over the week of Memorial Day 2017, nineteen Rotarians, family members and friends of St. George Rotary Club traveled to Guatemala for the 11th consecutive time. Covering approximately 4200 miles roundtrip to build simple stoves, help babies breathe; deliver toys, glasses and beans; and establish a local medical clinic which provided basic medical supplies where there is an overwhelming need were St. George residents Dan and Cindy Strobell, their daughter Michelle Tanner, Dave Prisbrey, Chris Parker, Gay Butler, Reed Noble and 3 of his grandsons, Cody Noble, George and Dixie Whitehead and a grandson Jason Thiriot, Tim Strobell; father and son Jason and Jaron Hendrix; and, Lynn and Lori Beecher of Cedar City.

According to event organizer Dan Strobell, Guatemala - about half the size of Utah but with a population of more than 15 million residents - has the world’s highest infant mortality rate. Currently 70 percent of Guatemalans – about 6.5 million Mayans - live in poverty and 80 percent of Guatemalan children have stunted growth due to poor nutrition. To date, families in Mayan villages have seen a “drastically improved quality of life” through the construction of 2510 simple stoves in a partnership with Guatemala’s Behrhorst Partnership Development (aka BPD) and a Rotary Global Grant totaling $56,000 funded by donations from St. George Rotary ($18,600), Aspen, CO Rotary ($5000), Cedar City Rotary ($5000), Zion Canyon Rotary ($500), District 5420 ($15,000) and $22,000 from Rotary International.

“We could work for another 100 years and not be ‘done’,” said Strobell, “but in the history of this project we have built 2510 simple stoves to replace open fires in Mayan homes, reduced deaths and burns among many hundreds of women and children; and allowed thousands of children to return to school rather than spending their day searching for firewood.

In the 4th year of the newborn rescucitation program, “Helping Babies Breathe” Cindy Strobell, an RN at Dixie Regional Medical Center has taught many midwives how to save the lives of numerous infants thought to be stillborn.

Lynn Beecher and his school teacher wife Lori transported “mounds” of school supplies, soccer balls, sewing kits, newborn blankets, handmade toys from Cedar City’s Happy Factory to children who have “virtually nothing to call their own.” In return, the couple say they had more than a few life-changing experiences in several Mayan villages.

Jason Hendrix, MD, an ophthalmologist with St. George Eye Center, made presentations to villagers explaining the health consequences to their eyes of cooking over an unventilated open fire including, “watery eyes, headaches and sensitivity to sunlight” among other risks. At the conclusion of each presentation, he distributed prescription glasses – and sunglasses – donated by generous St. George residents.

Of course, Rotarians, their family and friends also found time to enjoy the vacation aspects of their travels including climbing ancient ruins; rest and relaxation on black sand beaches; and getting better acquainted with the area and with each other.

St. George Rotarians and others will likely travel to Guatemala again next year on or around Memorial Day weekend.

To donate to this cause or for more information, see

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