By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the Uniendo America Project Fair. Uniendo America is the original project fair, started 25 years ago by Rotarians from the United States and Central America to support projects in Central America. The annual event, organized by Districts 4240 and 4250, is hosted in a different Central American country each year.
This year, clubs gathered in sunny Belize to learn about the region’s needs, experience the vibrant culture, connect with new and old Rotary friends, and build lifelong foundations for international service.
Local clubs welcomed this opportunity to showcase their region’s needs and projects. William Boegel from the E-Club of Lake Atitlán-Panajachel has been attending Uniendo America for the past five years and has successfully made connections with partners each year for his clubs’ projects in Guatemala. “It’s worth it; I know we will meet people who like what we are doing and want to connect to someone face-to-face and actually start a relationship,” he shares.
For many Rotary members, taking on large projects can be overwhelming. Jaimala Vasquez from the Rotary Club of Belize exhibited for the first time this year and shared the experience inspired her to dive deeper into projects. Check out the video below where both William and Jaimala share their experience of exhibiting at the 25th Uniendo America Project Fair in Belize.
International visitors traveled long distances in hopes of learning about Belize, building a foundation for an international partnership and finding projects they could take back to their clubs.
The Rotary Club of Silicon Valley in the United States focuses heavily on education and technology, and entrepreneurship projects. Mitty Chang was sent to the Uniendo America project fair in Belize on behalf of his club to find projects that align with the Rotary Club of Silicon Valley’s goals. Mitty connected with many new Rotary friends that were exhibiting projects he could take back to his club. Since his club meets online via a video call, he planned to invite clubs who exhibited at the fair to call into his club meetings and share their projects. His club would than collectively decide which projects they’d like to support.
Mitty said many Rotarians can be hesitant about sending money abroad, especially if they have only corresponded with the person via a phone call or email exchange and don’t feel like they really know the person. “Project Fairs are that opportunity to meet someone in person, share a drink with them, break bread with them and really get to know them. That way, you feel more reassured that your money is going somewhere you trust. It’s also a great way to build that relationship, it improves the chances of you and your club members traveling to the site of the project you partnered on and actually do some hands on service,” he shared.
Experience a project fair for yourself! Attend the 26th Uniendo Project Fair in Costa Rica, 24-27 January. More information can be found online.
No two project fairs are alike. Consider attending one of these upcoming project fairs in Africa, Central and South America, Europe or the Middle East to broaden your horizons and support a new international project.