For decades, Rotary clubs in Marysville, south Everett (Washington, US – D 5050) and other areas have helped build schools, other projects and friendships in Guatemala.
Through the Hands for Peacemaking Foundation, volunteers work in the Central American country’s rugged villages.
One local dentist has turned those trips into family affairs.
Dr Kelly Peterson spends his professional life at his Marysville practice, Northwest Smile Design.
A member of the Marysville Rotary Club, he has been to Guatemala six times.
“I decided it would be a good experience for my kids,” said Peterson, who helped build a school during a 10-day trip last month.
His oldest son, Michael, came along on Peterson’s first Guatemala trip.
Now 25, Michael Peterson was a Snohomish High School junior that year.
“It was transformative for him,” said Dr Peterson, who later took son Marshall, 21, and daughter Nicole Peterson Daniels, now almost 22 and married.
This year’s journey was special in several ways.
After volunteers finished building a three-room school house in the Guatemalan village of Canton Maya Jaguar, the dentist was in for a surprise.
Villagers uncovered a plaque on the school. “En Honor A Familia Kelly Y Kristi Peterson,” it said, along with the month and year, “Marzo 2018.”
The school was dedicated in his family’s honour.
Peterson’s youngest son, Matthew, was in Guatemala for the first time in March. So was the dentist’s wife, Kristi.
Matthew Peterson, 18, is a senior at Snohomish High. “This is the last kid,” Dr Peterson said.
“And my wife, because she didn’t have any more children at home, was able to come, too.”
It was a first for Kristi Peterson, who has heard from her husband and older kids about the remote mountain villages in northwest Guatemala, near the Mexican border.
Also along was a niece, Kaitlyn Peterson from Utah, and Michael Peterson’s fiance, Lisa Rodney.
Both of them are students at Southern Virginia University, where daughter Nicole also went to college.
Larry Jubie, 70, also belongs to the Marysville Rotary. He has shared construction skills during 19 trips to Guatemala.
“This was the most difficult place we ever had to get to,” Jubie said of Canton Maya Jaguar.
His 75-year-old brother, Harv Jubie, was there, too, on his 20th Guatemalan journey.
After flying into Guatemala City, the travellers spend 14 hours on a bus to the town of Santa Cruz Barillas, where the Everett-based Hands for Peacemaking Foundation has a mission house.
There, they load up trucks for several more hours of travel “on roads I would best describe as a dried riverbed,” Dr Peterson said.
The last part of this year’s trip was an hour-plus hike uphill to the mile-high village.
There, the people’s huts have dirt floors. There are no flush toilets — they dug two latrines outside the school they built.
And their team installed more than 50 stoves in the huts.
Hands for Peacemaking was founded in 1985 by Dr Leeon Aller, a Snohomish family practice physician.
Before he died in 2008, Aller and his wife, Virginia, had made 48 trips to Guatemala, helping people who subsist on little more than corn tortillas.
The Foundation is supported by Rotary groups here, in Mount Vernon and in Quincy, and by churches and individual donors.