Clubs in Central America to put on international project fair
A scenic view of a Central American beach. In January, Costa Rica will host an international project fair.
For many people, January is a time for New Year’s resolutions. But instead of cutting out the carbs this year, why not resolve to find an international project for your Rotary club? The Uniendo America Project Fair makes it easy.
The fair, now in its 15th year, will be held 24-26 January in San José, Costa Rica. It will feature as many as 300 projects organized by clubs in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, as well as seminars, including one on microcredit that will be led by Rotary Foundation Trustee Carolyn Jones.
"The project fair is a place to make new friends, to comply with your Rotarian passion through human service, and to get to know lovely tropical countries – at a time when it gets cold in the North," says Fabio Carballo, past governor of District 4240 (Costa Rica; El Salvador; Nicaragua; Panama) and chair of this year's fair.
The Uniendo America fair was the launching pad for microcredit projects in Central America, notes Carballo, who is also vice chair of RI’s Microcredit Advisory Committee. Microbanking is still a big part of the event; other topics include water, hunger, health, education, transportation and shipping, and the environment.
"A project fair is like a huge menu of projects in the Central American countries for Rotarians to choose from and bring back to their club," says Deniel Banks, a member of the Rotary Club of Portland, Oregon, USA, who serves on the microcredit committee. "It looks like a cross between a trade fair and the House of Friendship."
Rotarians will be able to take part in some hands-on projects as well as special events such as a city tour, dance lessons, and a formal ball. Before and after the fair, they can visit national parks and private nature reserves of Costa Rica, which is known for its tremendous biodiversity.
In its 15 years, the Uniendo America fair has faced its share of adversity, from Hurricane Mitch in 1998 to the 2001 earthquake in El Salvador, but the Central American organizers and the North American visitors have persevered.
"This has become such a powerful instrument for people to come together," Carballo says. "A lot of clubs in the United States want to do international service, but they don’t know how. This is a good place to start."