by Ashley Sloan 

Two members of the Kemptville Rotary club, John and Cora Beking, hosted a special event during a Tuesday night meeting at the Grenville Mutual Building.  An El Salvador themed meal of rice topped with a sunny side up fresh egg, homemade refried beans, cheese filled papusas, and a dessert called cholado, was served to members and guests while John and Cora gave a presentation on their latest mission to El Salvador. This was their eighth mission, where they went to work on projects with  people living in these communities to create and build partnerships, as well as long lasting friendships. Rosie and Trevor were their hosts during their mission in El Salvador and have worked on a few of these missions with them.

Together with a team of members from different Rotary clubs from Gananoque, Cornwall, Ottawa, Kingston who were part of this trip, their main mission was to attend a Project Fair where, depending on the community that hosts, you can either visit a large community centre and go from table to table, or sit and have the people present you a 5 minute presentation on their project. The Rotary members then pick a “Project from the heart”.  John and Cora chose a stove project, since they began their first mission when they met a gentleman named Gustavo who runs a stove factory. The first model of stoves were made from concrete and were smokeless, but required a good amount of wood. Cora and John delivered 60 of these stoves by boat and trained the women in the village on how to use them. During this trip, they were able to assist in the building of a newer, more permanent version of stoves using brick and mortar with a larger flat metal surface. The temperature of this newer model can go up to 1400 degrees, where it becomes smokeless. As an additional fun touch, Cora added a rotary pin in the mortar. Most families were able to not only cook more efficiently, but also use these stoves to make baked goods to sell. The stoves sell for $100 US, and two of the major benefits of these newer models is that they burn roughly 40% less wood than the original units and don’t take as long to heat up. 

A former project Cora mentioned that has made a huge impact to the residents in the community was a Water project. Cora asked the members and guests to imagine  living at the top of a mountain in a home that would be described as a shack. In order to have water, you need to walk down the mountain to get to the  source of water, and then climb back up. This was quite a to do for families as they would also have to go down to work, if they had a job, and  children would have to go down the mountain if they were able to go to school. The water project was successfully accomplished by several clubs coming together and raising funds and  applying for grants. The Rotary Foundation also matched .80 cents to every dollar raised. The cost of the well was $70,000, and it will now pump the water up to the top of the mountain. The residents pay a usage fee of $7/month that will be reinvested into maintenance of the well and pump house. 

John and Cora also recounted that some of the buildings in the village, like the schools and medical centres, are made from sea crates. These crates are left behind as it is cheaper to leave them than ship them back to Europe. They are then converted into additions to any of the current buildings. 

One of the Rotary members who John and Cora have established a partnership with is Tito. He  owns a successful business that has employed over 180 employees in the community, and someone who has a big heart. He started  a backpack project that Cora and John were able to be part of with a donation to the project. They joined  Tito and his team handing out backpacks to the students at a local school. It seems Tito is always celebrating a birthday with a big dinner and entertainment when Cora and John are visiting. So, as an appreciation gift, a few Rotary members presented him with a card and donated towards Tito’s projects for his birthday. 

The biggest project that was presented to them was a medical project, and this is where Cora and John ran into Jennifer Jones, the President of Rotary International who is from Southern Ontario. Rotary President Jones is also recognized as being the first female to hold this position. She was currently in El Savador  visiting the Medical Centre for the opening of the preemie unit.  The Rotary Club raised money to bring in blue lights for jaundiced babies. The significance of this project has helped drop the death rate of preemie babies. The next fundraising focus for the Medical Centre is for a high pressure steam sterilization unit, with a total cost of $90,000. The great news is that they are currently just shy of $16,000 left to raise!  Once the money is raised, the next step will be to have it approved by the Rotary Foundation to hopefully receive their match of .80 to the dollar. 

During this visit, a new wing was dedicated in honour of the work done by Bruce Higgs, a Rotary member from Gananoque, as well as International Rotary President Jennifer Jones, and clubs from Canada, the United States and Colombia. 

The next Project Fair will be in Armenia,  Columbia in 2024. Members are looking forward to attending.  As the meeting was wrapping up, one member asked how the government or local governments support these communities. Cora replied that “when she arrived to one of the villages and the Mayor met them, she had asked this question and was told that the township had  implemented a recycling program where the residents can bring their recycling and garbage to the depot and receive credits towards their groceries.” These types of projects are in partnership with the local Rotary Club. 

The meeting concluded with Happy Bucks. For a loonie donation, you can offer some happy news from your life. 

If you would like more information on the types of community events and projects supported by the Kemptville Rotary Club,  visit their website 


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