By Angie Mesistrano, International Rear Commodore of International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians
Sometimes we Rotarians wonder how we can help our communities. Other times, we find the opportunity unexpectedly. This is the case of Marcelo Arteaga, Commodore of the Guayaquil Ecuador fleet of International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians. Marcelo was walking a secondary road in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, looking for a property to buy, with nature and a seashore. When he found one and bought it, he discovered there was a small fishing village nearby with 2,800 inhabitants, who lived only on agriculture and fishing. He also discovered that he had unknowingly bought the land that reaches the second largest Ecuadorian marine reserve after the Galapagos. The reserve is protected by a Nature Conservancy and the Nazca Institute for Marine Research. It contains 20 species of whales and dolphins, sea turtles and houses organisms that have not yet been studied, in addition to coral forests and the last black coral reef.
In that small fishing village, there was a lack of education, drinking water, work methodology, awareness of the necessary care of the marine reserve and its biodiversity. Marcelo wanted to make a difference by implementing a project that promises a future for children while supporting their parents through these changes that can be perceived as threats to long-standing traditions and customs. He set out to achieve his ambitious plan with the support of an enthusiastic group of Rotary friends by focusing on education for children.
Some fleets of the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians have groups called Marine Scouts. Marcelo and his Rotary friends formed their own brigade of Marine Scouts, and began to teach villagers about caring for the environment, the sea and protecting marine species. Beaches were cleaned, plastic pollution awareness was raised, native trees and plants were planted. They also got the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment to send an instructor to teach the children. With effort and patience, they managed to get the children to finish secondary education and today they can report that four young people are studying at the tertiary level: one of them is studying forest engineering, another is studying administration and accounting, and two are about to enter the Merchant Navy.
The Marine Scouts also include Interactors -from the Interact Club of San Francisco del Cabo sponsored by the Rotary Club of Guayaquil Norte. With the effort of the Guayaquil Ecuador fleet and the Guayaquil Norte Rotary Club, two water purification pumps were also provided to the village. Today, they are managed and supervised by the marine scouts of San Francisco del Cabo. A sailing school was also organized, which currently has several children able to practice this sport at a competitive level.
As part of the ecological project, a nautical green point was built to collect and sort plastics and post-fishing waste, to be delivered to recycling companies, contributing to the cleaning of the seas. The children of San Francisco del Cabo have been exposed to service through Rotary: they help the elderly in the area, visit them, care for them and donate wheelchairs. They have learned to socialize, share, and organize in groups by doing instructional camps. They have also exchanged through Rotary, traveling to other countries. This was unthinkable a long time ago when they had only left a few kilometers from their hometown.
This is another example of how Rotary spirit and will can give a wonderful service to a community through Rotary Fellowships. It is one more way to enjoy our International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians. All yachting enthusiasts are invited to join our Fellowship, share our love for yachting, and support one another with projects to protect our scarce natural resources while empowering communities.