Third Annual – Rotary Science Symposium on Lake Atitlán

Rotary E-Club of Lake Atitlán (RECLA) – Thursday, 3 May 2018

1-4 PM at Hotel Jardines del Lago, Calle Monterrey, Panajachel, Guatemala

Moderator, Dr. Will Boegel, RECLA President

Featured speakers:

Dr. Margaret Dix, Professor Emeritus, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG)

Lecture: Annual science studies update on Lake Atitlán water health status

Dr. Eliska Rejmankova, Professor, University of California, Davis

Lecture: Macrophyte life in lake Atitlán/Toxicology status

Dr. Monica Orozco, Professor, Universidad Del Valle de Guatemala (UVG)

Lecture:  Update on UVG arsenic studies in Lake Atitlán

Dr. Amber Roegner, Post-Doctoral Research Investigator

Lecture: Results of water borne parasite prevalence study

of children under age 5 in the Lake Atitlán watershed

Eduardo Aguirre, Amigos Del Lago board member

Lecture: ¡Ni Una Gota Más de Agua Sucia al Lago de Atitlán!

TBA (To be announced) An indigenous representative will talk about

the indigenous perspective on water and sanitation in Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán, acclaimed as the world’s most beautiful lake by most who see it, is also threatened by all the usual problems that come with development. Rotary E-Club Lake Atitlán (RECLA) is especially concerned with supporting projects involving providing clean drinking water, sanitation, and any work that will help the water quality of Lake Atitlán.

This Symposium is the third annual meeting hosted by RECLA to study scientific issues about Lake Atitlán. For more information, go to internet  or Facebook at Rotary E-Club Lake Atitlan.

There is no charge to attend the conference, but we will accept Q20 donations at the door.

Directions to Hotel Jardines del Lago on Calle Monterrey in Panajachel:

Calle Monterrey connects Calle Santander with Calle Embarcadero (where the public launches go to the Santa Cruz/San Marcos/San Pedro side of the lake). You can access the hotel from either Santander or Embarcadero.

Thanks to all for your participation in this highly publicized and enormous environmental challenge!

At the District 4250 Conference in Antigua on March 3, David Griggs accepted two awards for the Rotary e-Club Lake Atitlan:

– 100% Foundation Giving Club for 100% Member Participation with an average giving of US$100.

–  Every Rotarian Every Year Club for 100% Member Participation with a per capita contribution of US$100

These two awards were presented to Dr. Will Boegel at the meeting on March 22 in Panajachel.

At the same meeting, Cynthia Davis and John Berry used a power point presentation to outline the grave concerns among the Santa Cruz residents about the garbage dump (El Picacho Basurero) at the top of the mountain above the village.  

Cierre el Basurero El Picacho is a group of concerned citizens of the Lake Atitlan, Sololá who want to close down the dump, citing serious concerns about the round-the-clock burning of the refuse, creating toxic fumes as the smoke drifts down into the village.  In addition, there is continuing concern about the potential for fires along the mountain on windy days which would damage vegetation down the mountain, presenting greater potential for rockslides, flooding, and mudslides in Santa Cruz and neighboring area during the approaching rainy season.  In addition, the water runoff from the dump is contributing to the contamination of Lake Atitlan; this will increase when the rains begin.

AMSCLAE (Authority for the Sustainable Management of the Lake Atitlán Basin and Surroundings) has said that the picacho is the largest open-air dump in the Atitlán Lake basin, and is urging a total closure of the dump, as a priority in order to preserve the environment of beautiful Lake Atitlan.

San Lucas Toliman Surgical Week

A super USA national team of 30 doctors, nurses, and volunteers completed 51 orthopedic bone surgeries on 45 children and 6 adults at the mission hospital in San Lucas Toliman during March 10-16.  Dr Will and Diane Boegel hosted the team at Opal House. Eighty patients were screened for surgery, mostly disabled children with a wide variety of orthopedic challenges such as clubfeet, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and broken bones or non-healed bones from trauma.  We are grateful for the teamwork of the Opal House Mission and Rotary of Fidalgo Island, Washington state for a 40% increase in surgeries this year.  Many lives will be changed.


March 8 meeting

After introduction of many visiting Rotary members from “up north,” Worthy Village volunteers and Rotarians, and committee reports, Dr. Dr. Louis DePeña, Director of the Lake Atitlan Wellness Clinic in Panajachel,  presented additional information on the issue of arsenic in the soil around the lake, following the presentation at the February 22 meeting by Dr. Monica Orozco, Professor of Biochemistry at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala in Solola.  Studies indicate that high levels of naturally-occurring arsenic exist in varying levels in the three communities of Panajachel, Santa Catarina, and San Antonio, with Panajachel tests indicating the highest levels.

Luis DePeña, MD and Juan Estuardo Bocel Pocop, Agricultural EngineerDr. De Peña showed a video from the University of California Berkeley describing the impact of acute elevated levels of arsenic.  In the largest city in northern Chile (Antofagasta), >250,000 people were exposed to high arsenic drinking water concentrations from 1958 until 1970 when a water treatment plant was installed. Because of its unique geology, limited water sources, and good historical records, lifetime exposure and long-term latency patterns can be assessed in this area with better accuracy than in other arsenic-exposed areas worldwide.  As such, this area provides a unique opportunity to study the long-term impacts of an early-life carcinogen with excellent data on past exposure.  (photo: Luis DePeña, MD and Juan Estuardo Bocel Pocop, Agricultural Engineer).

Dr. De Peña also presented a video with frequently-asked questions and dietary concerns for persons seeking to minimize arsenic intake. Additionally, clinics such as Lake Atitlan Wellness and other health teams, might collect data on prostate cancers which were one type identified in the Chile study as possibly related to arsenic.

March 15 meeting

Jessie Cohn and Estela SimajJessie Cohn, Executive Director of Amigos de Santa Cruz Foundation, spoke about the progress the foundation has made in the 20 years since the beginning of the program.  From its inception, Amigos has stressed the value of long term goals for the community and focused on the needs of the population of Santa Cruz and the small rural communities around the village. The comprehensive goals can be summed up as improving educational access, economic improvement, and health education for all.  Over the 20 years of existence, Amigos can point to a number of successes:

— Local residents as staff members in key positions

— CECAP: Vocational education in several needed areas of employment around the lake, including sewing, computer education, carpentry, welding, and foot loom weaving.

— Youth Corps, 20 hours of internships for young people working in many areas of employment in the Lake Atitlan area

— Model Classrooms program, starting with preschool and continuing on to support scholarship assistance for university students

— Women’s empowerment training, with startups of small businesses

Jessie was accompanied by Estela Simaj, a Santa Cruz resident and one of the first children involved in the Amigos program 20 years ago.  Estela is now co-director of CECAP. (photo: Jessie Cohn and Estela Simaj)

Christmas party, December 21

A holiday celebration was held at the Cacique Inn, with about 18-20 members and friends attending.  Pictured are: members Mohamed Gohar and Mayra Lisbeth Tobías, with guest, Norma Bajan Balan, Country Director for the organization Starfish.

2018 Belize Project Fair, reported by David Griggs

Dr. Will Boegel, David Griggs, and Carolyn Johnson, a Rotarian from Maine, attended the Belize Project Fair, January 26 and 27.  Belize did a wonderful job of hosting Uniendo América, the 2018 Rotary Central American Project Fair at the Best Western Hotel in Belize City. On Friday evening, they treated attendees to dinner, drinks, and entertainment at Old Belize on the waterfront.  One helpful feature was the placement of the display tables around the perimeter of the room, with tables and chairs in the middle for people to chat or have serious conversations about projects.

A highlight of the program was a series of informative talks.  Azka Asif, a Program Communications Specialist in the Rotary International Service and Engagement field, gave a presentation entitled “Engagement Opportunities to Enhance your Projects.”  She talked extensively about the community assessments which now are mandatory to include in international grant applications, as well as resources which are available for those clubs who are putting together grant applications.

Carolyn Johnson, representing the Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisors, spoke about the wealth of assistance that Cadre members can provide to clubs in planning, monitoring, and evaluating grant applications. Other talks included valuable information on the Rotary Foundation, the WASH in Schools Target Challenge, and Rotary Action Groups.

 A.J. Garis of Bend, OR, met with with e-club’s president, Dr. Will Boegel.  AJ’s Rotary District in Bend, Oregon, sent him down to investigate international service opportunities in Central America. 

The Rotary Club of Punta Gorda, Belize, provided impressive presentations on a number of programs: a four-school waste water treatment/drainage/fencing project; a medical waste incinerator; a photovoltaic system for a school; a project for women’s shelter, education, and outreach; a WASH proposal for sustainable water, sanitation, hygiene, and education in two villages; and a proposal for a solar water pump for a village. 

Luis Godey represented his very active Rotaract group from San Ignacio, Belize. The Yalbac School Project seeks to pay the cost of tuition and school supplies for students who could otherwise not afford to attend school. The Rotaract School Refurbishment Project aims to conduct repairs and provide necessary equipment to schools. The Maternity Care Project would like to provide new mothers with maternity baskets containing prenatal vitamins, diapers, bottles, and informational packages. 

Rotary representation at community information and engagement room for Mardi Gras celebration at Panajachel Colegio Internacional

David Griggs, Vivian Harvey, and John Van Lante presented information about local efforts in remediation of Lake Atitlan, including the tul reforestation project.  

The immediate goal is seeking more volunteers for the twice-monthly tul program, with the long-term goal being to involve the Panajachel community in the efforts to save the lake.

With the arrival of warmer weather around Lake Atitlan, the harvesting and replanting of the tul has resumed, reports John Van Lente, vice president of the Rotary E Club of Lake Atitlan. This continues the Tul Reforestation Program, entitled “Natural Interventions to Revitalize the Biodiversity of Lake Atitlan Guatemala.”

TulTul is a local plant which is especially important for the health of the lake. The cyanobacteria blooms of recent years are mainly caused by excess input of nutrients, and the presence of tul (Tule, Schoenoplectus or Scirpus) provides a natural and rapid uptake of nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, while creating the surface area that attracts microorganisms in the water that create a cleaning biofilm.

The amount of tul, formerly abundant around the shore of the lake, has been severely diminished due to the sudden changes in the water level over the past few years, as well as from the lack of education among the population around the lake on its importance and responsible harvesting. The immediate need for remediation and replanting of tul around the lake is critical to the health of Lake Atitlan.

TulThanks to the leadership of AMSCLAE (the local Atitlan Basin Group), the following organizations are supporting the tul restoration project: CONAP (El Consejo Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, Amigos del Lago, and the Rotary E Club of Lake Atitlan.

Volunteers, both local residents and visitors, are invited to join this important program on the first Thursday or the third Wednesday of each month.

On Thursday, August 3, the Rotary e-Club of Lake Atitlan hosted hosted DG Julio Grazioso (Guatemala) and Assistant DG Luis Barcarcel (Xela). Juan Carlos Chevez hosted a very nice luncheon, and Emilio Crespo supplied many dishes from Hotel Cacique.

We had an excellent meeting with great team presence. David Griggs, Bruce Clemens, and Vivian Harvey were present online. More than 10 RECLA members participated, and many prospective members also were present, for a total of 22 present.

After a junta directiva review of overall goals from 11-12:15, DG Julio gave a rotary presentation from 12:15-1:15 in excellent English, practicing for presentations in Belize. He will forward his powerpoint presentation, and Dr Will Bogel will distribute it as requested. This was a great team effort, and Dr. Will believes we will have a very positive relationship with the DG and partner in both country and district projects.

Dr. Will expresses gratitude to all Rotary e-Club of Lake Atitlan members for a very successful 2016-17, as we look forward to an excellent new Rotary year and synergy from our team.