Truckee Rotary members work to improve lives of Mexican children | SierraSun.com

Truckee Rotary members work to improve lives of Mexican children

James Conley was among 14 Truckee Rotarians to travel in March to Mexico to help school children as part of an international goodwill project.
Courtesy photo |

TRUCKEE, Calif. — From March 12-16 of this year, 14 members of the Truckee Rotary journeyed to Los Barriles in Baja California, Mexico, to improve the lives of Mexican school children by refurbishing the dormitories where the students live.

It was a triumph of hard work and across-border cooperation, and a tribute to how a small group of people in a short amount of time can dramatically improve the lives of those less fortunate then themselves.

The Los Barriles students spend every week at the school, staying in dorms, and then return to their families on the weekends.

The majority of the students are poor, and the community did not have the funding to repair the dilapidated living areas.

Locally, the idea to help the students began with a meeting between Marshall Lewis, a former marketing director and ski instructor at Alpine Meadows and Truckee Rotary member, and Truckee Rotarian James Conley.

Lewis had retired to Los Barriles and became active with the Rotary there, and was looking for some help with a project, and Conley was seeking a hands-on international project.

“I did all the planning with Donna Landeros,” said Conley. “It was a three-year progression. We wanted to get boots on the ground and do something that was really good for the community.”

Conley took a trip down to the site in December 2014 to prepare for the arrival of the Truckee Rotarians, and when he returned, the board provided $5,000 to send to Mexico for supplies.

The Los Barriles Rotary then purchased what was needed and had everything in place for the arrival of the Truckee Rotarians.

‘EXPERIENCE OF THEIR LIVES’

The Truckee folks worked like crazy for four days, putting in 224 hours of hard work, and loving every minute of it.

They painted the two dorms, installed new curtains and replaced the old dilapidated lockers where the children kept all their belongings.

“The kids were beaming. Their parents came and helped, and made us food. It was an incredible rewarding experience,” said Conley. “Some of the Rotary people who came down considered this one of the top ten experiences of their lives.”

Rotary Board President Sherilyn Laughlin agrees saying, “there was so much gratitude from the people. We were covered in paint and the girls had tears from the joy of seeing what we had done.”

She said that when they arrived, the paint was peeling and dropping off the ceiling, and it was moldy and disgusting. The girls picked out the bright and vibrant colors in advance.

“James and I have been trying to get a shovel on the ground on an international project for four years,” Laughlin said.

They wanted a project that was about putting in the labor instead of writing the checks.

And the close distance made it possible for the group to make a huge impact in just a few days, as opposed to going half way across the world.

“It was one of the most phenomenal experiences from a community service standpoint in my life,” said Laughlin.

‘AN AMAZING POTENTIAL’

While it was a success for the students who now enjoy a better place to live, it was also a success for the long-term development of the community in Mexico, and for the efforts of Truckee Rotary to be part of international programs.

Meanwhile, the large ex-pat community on the Baja peninsula heard about what the Truckee and Los Barriles Rotarians were doing, and made the effort to get involved to help as well.

Many have joined the local Rotary there or donated money for future efforts.

For Conley and the rest of the Truckee Rotarians, this is just the start of their work with the people of Los Barriles.

“Over the long-term, we would like to do major restoration work,” Conley said. “We would like to also expand people’s knowledge about Rotary here in Truckee and getting more people involved in doing international work. There is an amazing potential.”

Laughlin says they want to make it a multi-year project and include other clubs from the region.

Currently there are 90 members in the Truckee Noon Rotary Club.

“It is a real mix of ages and a great organization. With an amazing potential to do good,” Conley said. “We would like people to know about what we are doing.”

The Truckee Rotary meets at noon on Thursday at the Truckee Community Center. Visit truckeerotary.com to learn more.

The Truckee Sunrise Rotary Club, meanwhile, meets Tuesdays at 7 am at Marty’s Cafe. Visit truckeesunriserotary.com to learn more.

Tim Hauserman, a nearly lifelong resident of Tahoe City, is a freelance author and cross-country ski instructor. He may be reached at writeonrex@yahoo.com.