March 22, 2023

Rotarian climbs volcano Acatenango in Guatemala to raise funds in support of Cayman Islands food

Rotary Club of Grand Cayman Past Presidents Chris Johnson, accompanied by his wife Merja, Alan Roffey, with his wife Lynn, Derek Haines and Rotarian Trevor Neckles returned to Guatemala for the weekend of the 9th to 12th February and met with Rotarians from the USA and Canada taking part in the Guatemala Literacy Project (GLP) in that country and members of the charity Co-operative for Education that pioneered the GLP.

On the Saturday the group had the opportunity to meet with students they are assisting through middle and high schools. Sadly, without financial aid children tend to drop out of school at 12 years of age and work for very low wages in the fields or on menial tasks. By working alongside the GLP to keep children in education the Rotary organisation is helping to break the cycle of poverty by enabling students to obtain a career path.

Past President Chris Johnson said, “The GLP is a proven success and I am very pleased to be involved. I have seen my 3 students grow in confidence over the years and it was great to meet with them and our other students on Saturday, have a chat on progress and have lunch together.”

On the Sunday, Derek, Lynn and Guatemalan friend Gaby Amado climbed the volcano Acatenango (13,044 feet) as part of Derek’s efforts to raise CI$35,000 towards the Good Samaritan Food Bank in Grand Cayman. The original intention was to climb Volcano Fuego but as this had erupted violently only 10 days before it was deemed too dangerous to attempt a climb; although by climb time it had calmed down and was only sending out puffs of smoke.

Derek recalls “Collected from our hotel, at the unearthly time of 4am by guide Fernando, we reached the base of the volcano about 5am. Still dark, and aided by the light of head mounted torches, the party started the steep ascent through fields that soon passed into thick forestry. As the eastern sky lightened the torches were extinguished and soon a beautiful sunrise brought in the new day. Fernando was very knowledgeable on the flora and his instruction helped the mind to forget the strenuous climbing.

Around 10,500 feet is a small camp site where hot chocolate and coffee can be purchased, so a welcome break was taken before continuing upwards. This was also where the frost started! The forestry changes and thins out as the altitude increases until at about 11,000 feet scrub vegetation takes over before vanishing into scree and rocky outcrops. Steam can be seen venting through some of the rocks; a reminder that this is an active volcanic region.

After 6 hours we gratefully arrived at the rim and were treated to terrific views of volcanoes Fuego (12,346 feet), alongside and just below us, Agua (12,336), to the south of the old Guatemalan capital Antigua, and peeping through the clouds to the north, Toliman (10,361) and Atitlan (11,598), the guardian of Lake Atitlan; perhaps the most beautiful lake in the world.

Thick clouds swirled below us and Lynn, enjoying her first time on a mountain, was filled with wonder. A break in the clouds allowed us a quick glimpse of the Pacific, far away to the west. Fernando allowed us only 30 minutes on the summit because of the cold breeze, even under a blue sky and bright sunshine, and not wishing to be out on the volcano after dark. So a long and tiring descent began taking a different route down steep scree slopes, that filled our boots with pebbles and put us on our backsides several times, but afforded us better views of Fuego, Antigua and the distant capital, Guatemala City.
11 hours after starting the adventure we arrived back at our transport tired, but very happy and looking forward to a rehydrating Gallo (local Beer).”

All of this effort was to help support the Food Bank, which recently opened its doors on Grand Cayman, and while they are still growing their programs, they are already helping make a difference for approximately 200 individuals per week.

The funds that Derek is raising are earmarked to purchase some much needed equipment for the food bank, such as walk in refrigerator and walk in freezer, both of which are badly needed for the volumes of food being handled weekly.

The main source of the food for the program is recovered by the Food Bank from local grocery stores, distributors or restaurants such as Fosters Food Fair, Progressives Ltd, and Topimex. Items that are at their sell by dates, that are still perfectly good but can no longer be sold, are donated to the Food Bank.

The Food Bank then primarily transforms and repackages the food which is then distributed to the various established food delivery programs that partner with them to distribute the food to those who need it. They are also acting as a centralized point for distribution, allowing one donation to be distributed to many, and also helping to coordinate the food distribution to those who need it. They currently work with many of the existing meal delivery programs, helping them to expand their outreach. Any food that is donated that is not fit for human consumption does not automatically go to waste, instead it’s cooked and delivered to the Humane Society.

Derek already has his sights set on his next marathon challenge, which is a mountainous trail marathon down under in Australia called the Mt Mee Marathon, where he will be accompanied by his daughter Lizzy Haines. The Mt Mee Marathon is on Saturday, 14 April 2018. This event traverses some of the most beautiful country in Australia with majestic views in all directions and vegetation variance in abundance. The course is an out and back course with plenty of hills, a few creek crossings, mainly on 4WD tracks and trails with a bit of dairy pasture tossed in before a 5km bitumen surge to the turn around.

To donate to Derek and the Good Samaritan Food, donations can be made directly to the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman referencing Food Bank either on your check or in the transaction field. You can also contact [email protected]

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