Ann Arbor, MI Rotary Visits Tu'ik Ruch' Lew
Hello TRL Family,
I'm Maria Teresa Puac V., the new Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Tu’ik Ruch’ Lew (TRL). Some of you may remember me from my time as a volunteer, and I'm excited to embark on this new journey with all of you.
In this newsletter, we have an exciting highlight brought to you by Candis E. Krummel, our President of the Board of Directors. It's a captivating story of a recent Rotary visit that you won't want to miss. Join us as we explore the heart of our mission and the impact we're making.
By Candis E. Krummel
On July 28th, Tu’ik Ruch’ Lew (TRL) welcomed five Rotary Members from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Under the auspices of the Rotary Club of Lake Atitlan’s (RoCLA) “Insiders’ Tour of Lake Atitlan”, they were visiting Rotary-approved projects located in the Lake Atitlan basin. TRL’s Improved Cookstove Project was one they wanted to experience. As a fellow Rotarian, I was delighted to host them.
After a beautiful morning crossing by boat from Panajachel, I met these lively Rotarians at the Santiago dock. We were whisked by van to TRL’s office in the center of town. Seeing the colorful traditional clothing of the people and noticing that the shops were addressing needs of locals, their first impression was that Santiago Atitlan was a truly authentic Maya community obviously not focused upon tourism, like so many of the lakeside communities.
As we neared the ancient Catholic church, they could see that the plaza was packed with Guatemalan visitors from all over the country, as it was the anniversary of the assassination of martyred Father Stanley Rother. A special mass was being celebrated. Stanley Rother was an Oklahoman priest, beloved of the Tz’utujil people, as he learned to speak and preach in their dialect and supported the needs of the people. He was considered a threat by the military and murdered at the church in 1981. Of great interest to one of our visitors, I promised a stop at the church upon our return to town.
Welcomed by TRL’s staff, with hot cups of locally grown coffee and cookies, our guests were impressed with TRL’s small but efficient office, the bodega with stacks of stove parts and a demonstration ONIL stove on display at the entrance. Cameron introduced them to the stove, explaining how the details of the construction create the efficient, clean-burning effects. Splitting the visitors into two groups, we were soon off in the van to witness an installation of a new stove with Cameron and Candelaria and the all-important restoration of another, with Isabel, Heman and me.
As always, the arrival of Gringos walking along tiny walkways between the humble homes, brings children running out of their yards and women peering from behind their cornstalk walls. The humble dogs outside the homes, calmly watch us pass.
The day the new stove is installed is a big occasion with family members crowding around to watch this amazing change take place. John and Cameron put everyone at ease with jokes while Mary was busy making a photographic record of everything that took place.
The important change in this family’s life, made in the space of less than an hour, is always the most impressive feature.
While Candelaria worked with Andrea, the new owner, to teach her how to prepare the metal plancha and light the stove, John watched the chimney, noticing how quickly the smoke from the stove’s initial firing changed from gray to invisible, eliminating black carbon and greatly reducing CO2 going into the air.
Meanwhile, Philip, Wendy, Linda and I followed Isabel and Heman through the maze of walkways until we entered a small garden and the home of two charming elders, Juana and Diego, to replace the combustion chamber in their 8 year old, legacy stove which TRL has now adopted into our project. We were greeted by not only the two grandparents but a group of enthusiastic grandchildren, complete with cute puppies to be enjoyed by all!
Heman -- actually TRL’s accountant -- has insisted all along that he learns what TRL does in the field. Not your usual accountant! Heman worked together with Isabel to take the old stove apart. What a dusty mess! It required all of us to leave the small space and Isa and Heman to don masks while working, to protect their lungs.
Soon the stove was cleaned and ready to put back together and we all crowded in to see how that was done. In just a short time, Isabel ignited the stove to make certain the chimney was functioning properly and Juana was ready to use her restored stove…good as new!
The delight in the eyes of Juana and the appreciation expressed by Diego, touched all of our hearts.
After the promised stop at the church...
...the van took us back to the boat. It took us out to my lakeside home at Cojol’Ya, where our guests would see activities of traditional Tz’utujil daily life, sample our homemade loquat wine and for lunch, enjoy Isabel’s four-course, Tz’utujil Festival feast.
After a relaxing afternoon of lively conversation and delicious food, our guests crossed the lake again, returning for their last night in Panajachel. They all agreed that John (the Ann Arbor Rotary host) had saved the best for last!
We extend a heartfelt invitation to visit Santiago Atitlan and witness the direct impact of your support. Seeing the change in person, feeling the vibrant community spirit, and being part of the TRL journey is an experience like no other.
Maria Teresa Puac V.