|Villagers in Agua Zarca, Guatemala lay PVC pipe to carry water from higher ground to a holding facility.|
When Tom Yuzer is asked about the purpose and activities of the Rotary Club of Menifee, he always makes sure the question is answered completely.
"Yes, we're a community service organization," he admits, "but I always remind people that the second word in our name is 'international.'"
Rotary International has a mission of service to others, both locally and worldwide. In keeping with this theme, Menifee's Rotary Club is making as much an impact overseas as it is here in Riverside County.
In the last two and a half years, the Rotary Club of Menifee has contributed to the funding of four projects providing clean water to underprivileged communities in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and India. A fifth project, in the Dominican, has recently been submitted for approval to The Rotary Foundation, which supervises the spending of Rotary International funds and oversees the organization's scholarship and grants program.
Yuzer, Rotary Foundation Chairman for the Menifee Rotary Club, has been the local club's contact person for all four water projects, for which the club has donated more than $4,000. When combined with donations from partner Rotary Clubs on these projects and matching funds from local Rotary districts and Rotary International, Rotarians have contributed nearly $80,000 to these four clean water projects since 2009.
"Rotary has a list of projects it is involved in internationally," Yuzer said. "I went to our board and said, 'If you want to do an international project, Rotary is putting a lot of emphasis on clean water programs.' We decided to get involved, so I contacted Ft. Collins to let them know we'd be interested in joining them."
The Fort Collins, Colo., Rotary Club was the lead funding club for that 2009 project, which made significant improvements in the water and sanitation facilities in the Guatemalan village of Guasintepeque Arriba. Using the funding provided by various Rotary Clubs, local laborers built flood control around wells at the bottom of a ravine and enabled the water to be piped to a storage tank, among other improvements.
The Menifee Rotary Club took the role of lead international sponsor in a 2010 project in Agua Zarca, located in the province of San Jacinto, Chiquimula, Guatemala. Workers, comprised of members of the local Chiquimula Rotary Club and local residents, completed water distribution for two areas, serving hundreds of local residents.
"There is always a local Rotary Club on site, providing manpower and serving as the on-site fiscal agent," Yuzer said. "In these villages, the local residents have jumped in to provide labor as well."
One of Rotary International's biggest worldwide service projects has been its efforts to wipe out polio. In 1988, polio infected almost 1,000 children a day. By 2008, thanks in large part to contributions by Rotary International and a $350 million matching grant from the Gates Foundation, polio cases had declined 99 percent.
Today, polio has been eradicated in all but three nations: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.
Most of the funds donated by the Menifee Rotary Club were raised through its annual Menifee Motor Madness event, a car show held here every spring.
Through programs such as the clean water project, Rotarians are able to live up to the motto of their club: "Service Above Self."