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State of Jefferson Rotary E-Club helps improve lives of underserved girls in Guatemala

Eighteen-year-old Isabel Ramirez studies in northwestern Guatemala. She is an excellent student who loves to learn. At school she serves as a student council representative and a leader and mentor to other young girls. Isabel works in the cardamom and coffee farms as a laborer during breaks in the academic year to help her family make ends meet. Indigenous girls like Isabel receive opportunities to reach their full potential at Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala’s Maya Jaguar Educational Center thanks to student scholarships generously funded by clubs and organizations across the country. Emily Francona, a retired United State Air Force officer and charter president of the Rotary E-Club of the State of Jefferson, District 5110, shares how her club’s unique partnership with Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala is helping to empower underserved girls in Guatemala through education.

I joined the Rotary Club in Port Orford, Oregon, in 2001. When Rotary Internatonall began considering virtual clubs, later known as E-clubs, I joined a group of experienced Rotarians from Oregon and Northern California to form an E-club. E-clubs function like traditional clubs, but meet online via GoToMeeting, Skype, LinkedIn, Facebook, MeetUp, etc. E-clubs provide flexibility to Rotarians who travel or have business or family obligations that prevent them from attending regular meetings in a specific location at a specific time. An E-club also allows for a more geographically diverse membership, since members can attend meetings from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

How does the SOJ Rotary E-Club select an initiative to support?

Rotary clubs are community-based service organizations that foster and encourage civic engagement. Clubs select their own service projects based on their individual interests and missions. Because this e-club's membership is worldwide, members are encouraged to identify needs that can make a global or local community impact.

Why Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala?

Extreme poverty is an overwhelming barrier for girls and women in Guatemala, especially in rural indigenous areas. It is a major risk factor for sexual violence, early pregnancy, and lack of opportunity. Our club was interested in funding initiatives related to education and literacy, so when we learned about Adopt-a-Village’s efforts in Guatemala through its founder and fellow Rotarian Frances Dixon, we felt that our respective missions to positively impact underserved girls and women aligned. We are excited to know that our club’s commitment to empowering girls through education is helping to break the cycle of poverty in northwestern Guatemala.

How does an E-club raise funds to support its interests?

Fund raising in an E-club is challenging and requires creativity that goes beyond the traditional methods used by terra clubs, such as dinner events and auctions. This year we qualified for a district matching grant for our club’s signature project, Let’s Leave No Girl Behind, which increased our impact. Next school year, a total club grant of $6,500 will provide full scholarships for two girls, Isabel Ramirez and Elena Perez, to attend the Maya Jaguar Schools, as well as a fund for reading materials and a teacher’s aide stipend.

How did you select Isabel and Elena as your scholarship recipients?

The girls were selected from a Mayan village where our club launched our first Let’s Leave No Girl Behind project in 2016. We supported a literacy teacher to instruct girls and young women how to speak Spanish, Guatemala’s national language, and the girls were selected from that group. Adopt-a-Village keeps us informed on progress through periodic letters, which we publicize widely to our members.

Do you have plans to visit Guatemala?

I traveled to Guatemala City on business during the mid-80s, but not since. I hope to visit Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala’s outstanding educational center as a volunteer—I’m eager to meet Isabel and Elena and see first-hand how they and other girls are benefiting from our club's involvement.

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