From the February 2016 issue of The Rotarian
Carolina Gonzales Rivas first encountered Rotary as a child, when club members from the United States who were visiting her town of Chacala, Mexico, for service projects dined in her parents’ restaurant. She didn’t know anything about the organization then, but today Rotary plays an important role in her life. She received a scholarship to attend high school through Changing Lives, a program founded by Mariana Day of the Rotary Club of Bahía de Jaltemba-La Peñita (a neighboring community of Chacala); she is studying for a master’s degree in finance with the support of Rotarians in Berkeley, Calif.; and today she is a member of the Bahía de Jaltemba-La Peñita club.
“People come into your life like angels, and they motivate you,” she says. Rotary clubs from the United States and Mexico have been providing scholarships, building libraries, and rehabbing school buildings in the area since 2003, changing the way the community thinks about education. Rivas spoke with us while participating in the largest project to date: a Rotary Foundation global grant project to renovate a high school in Las Varas, Mexico.
The Rotarian: Describe your community.
Rivas: My family moved to Chacala when I was 10 years old. It was just fishermen, restaurants, and one or two hotels. It was a very small town. The young men drank alcohol, would get high, and all became fishermen. Young ladies would get pregnant, get married, have one child, then another, and that was it. The most a young person could aspire to in Chacala was to finish middle school, and many didn’t even finish. Now in Chacala, it seems like everyone is going to college.
TR: What did Rotarians do to help people in Chacala?
Rivas: Rotarians bring you a different world – a better world – with the help they provide. People now realize that there are opportunities to go to school, that books exist, that computers exist. You can change your life and your children’s lives, you can change the town you live in. You never know when the impact is going to stop.
The day I started going to university was when I started changing my family. Nobody in my father’s family had ever been to college. Then one of my sisters followed, and then my mother, and then my brother. Rotary changed my life, and it also changed the lives of my parents and siblings.
Interacting with Rotarians here in Chacala has been like magic. From the moment they arrive, the desire they bring to improve the place benefits the community. Not only do Rotarians help us through the projects, they contribute to the economy, because they pay for hotels and restaurants.
TR: Why did you join Rotary?
Rivas: I wanted to know what it felt like to be a part of something great. There are Rotarians who don’t have a lot of extra money, but we have the will and the desire to help people. You can help through work, you can help with ideas, you can help with effort. So there are no excuses; we always have something to give. That’s what Rotary is. When you want to help, you do it, and you don’t care about what you get in return.
Listen to an interview with Carolina Gonzales Rivas here.