ASPEN " Buying a duck for the Aspen Ducky Derby may well have helped children in Guatemala avoid death and go to school for the first time, according to members of the Aspen Rotary Club.
Members of the club, which annually puts on Ducky Derby Day in Aspen to raise money for its charitable work, are finishing up a campaign to bring clean water to several villages in Guatemala.
According to information provided by Aspen Rotary member Terri Caine, the nation's villages suffer from a high child mortality rate that is blamed in part on a lack of clean drinking water and sanitation, and resultant cases of diarrhea and related illnesses.
Aspen resident Skip Behrhorst three years ago "initiated a plan to bring clean water to three Guatemalan villages," Caine said. The plan was timed to coincide with the United Nations' proclamation of World Water Day, which began in 2006 and falls on March 22 every year.
Berhorst teamed up with a nonprofit foundation called Behrhorst Partners for Development (BPD), started by one of his relatives, as well as Rotary International and a half-dozen Rotary Clubs around the United States, to install clean wells, pumps, filters, latrines and fuel-efficient stoves to the villages of Chipila, Chiuleu and Santa Teresa.
Previously, according to Behrhorst, the kids of the village had the job of bringing fresh water in buckets, walking a mile and a half to get to the water. The task took most of their day, leaving them no time to attend school.
Now that bringing water is not the job of the children, he said, the kids can go to school.
Caine reported that the combined population of the three villages, roughly 1,380 people, live in a region accessible by unpaved roads some 39 miles from the state capitol, with scant public transportation to markets and other destinations.
"It's been a long but very rewarding project," Behrhorst said. "We started working on this grant with BPD and Rotary on March 19, 2006, just before World Water Day 2006. Now, three years later we are completing the physical project just in time for World Water Day 2009."