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By Mark Pavilons
Supporting a worthy cause can be quite contagious.
Giving back is essential for King's Clara Lovisotto and she's brought her family into the fold of an organization that's near and dear to her heart.
Lovisotto has been involved in the Canadian Central American Relief Effort (CCAMRE) for more than 15 years, a group that provides direct, on-the-ground assistance to people living in the Merendon Mountains of La Union, Guatemala.
Lovisotto got hooked on the organization when she first met founder Hilda Rossi at a fundraising event. Rossi's exuberance and enthusiasm drew Clara into the CCAMRE family and she's never looked back.
Rossi, who's of Guatemalan origin, created CCAMRE in response to the devastation left behind by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Rossi and Rosie DeBiasi launched the group initially in the Halton and Peel regions and CCAMRE became a registered Canadian charitable organization in 2003 (www.canadiancamre.org)
CCAMRE's mission is to promote initiatives that enhance the capacity of communities to become self-sufficient and sustainable. Of particular focus are the indigenous Mayan Chorti, who still live in remote mountain villages of Timushan, Pena Blanca and Volcancito. Victims of genocide during the 1960-1996 Guatemalan Civil War, many families fled and remained in hiding for decades, fearful, isolated, uneducated and cut-off from mainstream society.
As a grassroots organization members and volunteers who contribute time and skills at their own expense are the linchpins of CCAMRE. Projects that have been realized over the course of its inception include construction of houses, two community centres, a community store, construction of schools, stove program, sewing projects, education and scholarships, sponsor a child and a breakfast program, a baking project, seniors' project, yearly missions, donation of dental clinic and yearly mission of dental teams and medical teams. They also sent four loaded container of hospital and dental equipment and aid following two natural disasters.
“The Mayan Chorti have hope now because of people who believe in sharing and caring,” Rossi said.
Lovisotto enlisted the help of her daughter-in-law Christine and grandsons Michael and Nicholas. This past April, 27 Canadians and Americans participated in this year's mission. The Lovisottos are members of CCAMRE and their main focus is on securing a sustainable water source for the villagers. The area is known for coffee bean production, but the locals are typically employed only three months of the year, when the beans are harvested and processed. The mountain terrain and soil presents its challenges for other types of agriculture.
“It's a heart-breaking situation,” Lovisotto observed, noting the locals have been waiting for water for almost a decade. They've almost given up hope.
But CCAMRE hasn't. In fact, Lovisotto vowed to help pipe in the water, with help from Rotary International.
The Rotary Club Water Project will take place in Volcancito, which is located in the Merendon Mountains of La Union, Zacapa, Guatemala. Reaching out to two villages, the project will provide potable water for almost 400 people. This project will cover half of the village of Volcancito, and later on the group hopes to help the other half of the village.
Lovisotto, like Rossi, gives from the heart but shoots from the hip. She's tenacious and takes a hands-on approach to making things happen. Her dedication is in honour of her late husband John and his mother Salute, both of whom promoted paying it forward and giving from the heart.
When they viewed the water source this past spring, Lovisotto's response was “let's start to raise the money.”
“If there's a situation, let's fix it,” she says confidently.
The Mayan Chorti tend to be quiet and reserved, but Lovisotto wanted to hear from them directly, as to their needs. Water, plain and simple.
“The only time the communities in the Merendon Mountains of Guatemala see a physician or dentist is when CCAMRE arrives and we could see the happiness in the natives faces on our arrival. The volunteers on this humanitarian mission worked tirelessly for two weeks, enduring the heat, dust and much physical and mental difficulty. We visited 5 villages and attended to more than 1,000 patients,” Rossi commented.
“The highlight of this year's mission was the inauguration of the two-room addition to the school in Volcancito. We are appreciative of the Guatemalan people; especially the volunteers, the government institutions, the Ministry of Health, and the Guatemalan Embassy in Ottawa for facilitating our work and for the problem free entrance of the medicine into Guatemala, and especially for protecting our wellbeing. Guatemala's Mayan indigenous population have long been neglected and deprived of education, health and employment opportunities. As a result, many live in poverty and segregation as do the Mayan Chorti whose home is in The Merendon Mountains,” she said.
Clara is a doer, and is sometimes frustrated by hurdles involved in any international aid.
What does matter is giving back. Lovisotto said her family has worked hard building a family business, and has been very lucky to live and succeed in Canada. Her philosophy is that when you achieve, you “gotta give back.” She's made that her mission and she's made quite an impression on the younger generation in her family.
They've been quick to carry the torch.
Nicholas Lovisotto, 16, from Schomberg, said he wanted to go with his grandmother “mainly because I felt that I was taking what I have for granted and not appreciating things to the full extent. Also because I wanted to try and make a difference for at least one child in Guatemala.”
He admitted he didn't really know what to expect.
“When we arrived in the mountain villages of Guatemala, I was overwhelmed by how little they all had and how happy the children were regardless of their circumstances. Kids with nothing at all, smiling from ear to ear for a little rubber bracelet. It was heartbreaking.
“You would never even know how desperate these people are because they are so humble. From what I saw they need everything from proper housing and food to clothing, but most importantly clean water and they need the resources that we can provide to help them access clean water. Something we all take for granted in developed countries.”
Nicholas said the most important thing that can be done to help improve their lives is to instill the importance of education. “We continue to encourage them to stay in school to get a better education which in turn will allow them to venture out in the bigger cities with better opportunities. Some children leave school at 10 years of age to help raise their siblings.”
He wants to return to Guatemala to complete the mission they started, which is to provide clean drinking water to the villages and to improve the living standards.
“Most definitely I will return with friends, as it was a very enriching experience.”
Following the water project, Lovisotto would like to build a medical clinic and help foster a farming co-op, where locals can pool their resources for the common good. She's already started an “experiment” in her own backyard to see what plants would grow well in Guatemala's soil and climate.
To help further the cause, the annual fundraising 5k/10K Walkathon/Run takes place Saturday, Sept. 30 at Newmarket's Fairy Lake Park. It will begin at 10 a.m. In the past, the walk drew a lot of support and this year, local officials will welcome participants. King Mayor Steve Pellegrini and Newmarket Mayor Toni Van Bynen will be on hand to lend their support. Lovisotto encourages everyone to come out and support this very worthy cause.
For more, visit http://canadiancamre.org/walkathon17.pdf or to register go to https://goo.gl/xo3Z9x or email email@example.com or https://goo.gl/xo3Z9x
Excerpt: Supporting a worthy cause can be quite contagious. Giving back is essential for King’s Clara Lovisotto and she’s brought her family into the fold of an organization that’s near and dear to her heart. Lovisotto has been involved in the Canadian Central American Relief Effort (CCAMRE) for more than 15 years, a group that provides direct, on-the-ground assistance to people living in the Merendon Mountains of La Union, Guatemala.
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