Rotary Meetings in Ecuador

Thursday evening, March 29 I attended a meeting of the Rotary Club of Quito South.  The club has about 25 members of whom 15 were present.

My Rotarian friend Esteban Rudich took me as his guest.  His wife, Lily is the President of the school for special needs children, El Parvulario. Esteban told me he would pick me up at 7 pm. Begin Ecuador, he arrived about 7 40 pm.

The club meets in the Hilton Hotel for dinner.  Members gathered in their room and chatted before sitting down for dinner.  All the members (at least those present) were males.There was a small bar in the corner.  Some had cocktails, some softdrinks.  The room was arranged with a U-shaped table, a podium in the corner and a table to the side where the club’s secretary sits.  The secretary is a young woman employee of the club.  The president, the sargent at arms and I sat at the head of the U.

Rotary meetings in Ecuador are quite formal.  I have probably visited five or six clubs in my various trips here and they are all the same.  The president rings the bell.  The sargent at arms then stands at the podium and calls out the order of the day.  First we will sing the national anthem, and they do.  Second we will introduce guests, and they do and so on through nine orders of business.

Meanwhile waiters serve the food.  We had chicken breast, vegetables, rolls and dessert.  All quite good.  The bartender watches everyone’s glasses and continually fills them.  Since I elected to have a “whiskey” which is Ecuadorian for Scotch, I had to promptly tell the bartender no more or he would have refilled my glass every 15 minutes.  No problem if you haven’t finished your drink. He brings a new one and then pours the remainder of your old drink into the new glass.  Looked like a prescription for over imbibing to me.

There was no speaker.  Rather they spent the evening talking about their projects.  One of them is called “Children of Rotary-The Future of Ecuador.”  They recruit padrinos or Godfathers for children of very poor and disfunctional families who live in a slum.  As one of the Rotarians said, “even the police don’t go there.”

Each padrino pays $25 per month or $250 per year to help his child.  They try to intervene in these children’s lives with everything from medical care to tutors.  This is an intensive program that they hope to continue from first grade all the way through to high school and for some to university.  Without their help, these children would be unlikely to finish more than a few years of schooling.  They have a lot of passion for the program.

We talked about our club in Boise and our interest in international projects.  We especially talked about the importance to us of knowing that with any project in which we participate, the local club has to be thoroughly committed and we have personal connections.

The President rang the bell declaring the meeting over about 10 pm. By then half had already excused themselves and left.

As you may know, the Rotary Foundation is undergoing a transition to a new form. The transition will be completed June 30, 2013. At that time we will be able to do projects with the Ecuadorian clubs.  My coming here is a first step in building a relationship.  It is my hope Quito Sur will embrace El Parulario and that together the clubs of our Southern Idaho district and this club might be able to put together a project to help El Parvulario.