Wallowa County Rotary supports girls’ education in El Salvador

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer March 05, 2014 09:16 am

Rotarians teamed up with Project El Salvador last fall to visit scholarship recipients. In front are Susan DeMarsh and Judy Allen. In back, from left, are Bill Finney, Ralph Swinehart, John Kukankos and Rick Bombaci. Not pictured: Judy Wandschneider.
Rotarians teamed up with Project El Salvador last fall to visit scholarship recipients. In front are Susan DeMarsh and Judy Allen. In back, from left, are Bill Finney, Ralph Swinehart, John Kukankos and Rick Bombaci. Not pictured: Judy Wandschneider.

Club’s efforts will be discussed at Oddfellows Hall Friday

The Rotary Club of Wallowa County will host an evening presentation of its support of education for girls and young women in rural El Salvador. 

The club’s newest international project, to benefit girls whose education is cut short for cultural and economic reasons, will be discussed at 7 p.m. Friday at the Odd Fellows Hall in Enterprise. While donations are encouraged, admission is free. 

 The presentation will include slides and comments by Rotarians Rick Bombaci, Ralph Swinehart, Bill Finney and Judy Allen, volunteer Judy Wandschneider and John Kukanos. Kukanos is a longtime expert on El Salvador from Chicago, who served in the country as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1970s. During Kukankos’ El Salvador service, he met several Wallowa County Peace Corps volunteers whose interest in the South American country continues to this day. 

 Because of El Salvador’s rural economy, where a family monthly income is $100 to $150, girls frequently are required to stop their education after elementary education to help with family crop harvests, household duties or other family responsibilities, Bombaci said. 

 “In that culture, many girls also get pregnant early and have to leave school as a result,” he said. 

 A scholarship makes it possible for girls to be educated by replacing the lost family revenue. The local grants replace the family’s lost revenue, paying for books, tuition, school uniforms, shoes and public transportation to school. 

With other Rotarians, Bombaci led earlier projects in El Salvador to build a water system in a rural village that didn’t have running water and to purchase a needed utility truck. He has maintained his interest in El Salvador and as a result agreed to lead this new initiative at the request of Rotary President Louis Perry. 

 Because of Rotary’s international nature, local clubs routinely conduct international as well as local service projects, he explained. Rotary’s focus results from the commitment of its 1.2 million members in more than 200 countries. The local club consists of 45 members. 

 The current project provides books, tuition, school uniforms, shoes, and public transportation for girls whose families require them to stay in home to harvest beans or corn and taking care of other daily family chores that keep them from school. 

 The local project is part of Project Salvador, a longtime nonprofit involving Kukanos, an attorney, who manages the project frequently. Project Salvador monitors the girls who receive the Wallowa County scholarships.