In Guatemala, Utah volunteer strikes up global connection
Good deeds • Utah-based CHOICE Humanitarian has completed a series of projects.
Published: July 11, 2013 08:11AM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:35PM
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Photo Credit: Courtesy of DownEast Kenny Wright, 32, of Orem, in June with children from the Chirixquitzac village in Guatemala's mountainous Polochic region.

Kenny Wright had just finished hauling a load of rocks in June when a small hand took his.

It pulled him toward the soccer field in a mountaintop Guatemala town, where playing with local children became a daily ritual for volunteers with Utah-based nonprofit CHOICE Humanitarian.

On the field, Wright said, the kids “put us all in our place.“

The group helped residents build a foundation for a community center, the latest in a series of projects completed under CHOICE’s pact with the indigenous Mayan Chirixquitzac community.

Wright, 32, is a regional manager at DownEast Outfitters, which has donated about $140,000 toward the Guatemala project since 2009. Employees who had volunteered on previous trips convinced him to leave the U.S. for the first time. The group first landed in Guatemala City, the nation’s capital, before taking a ten-hour bus ride up winding roads to reach the community of about 60 families.

Six-year-old Juan Carlos and his friends challenged Wright and a dozen other Americans to a handful of soccer matches. As the children dodged, weaved and schooled their visitors, Juan became an unexpected friend, Wright said.

He and Juan, who speaks the language of the Quek’chi tribe, communicated with gestures and the bits of Spanish they each summoned, Wright said.

“I realized how little I actually knew,“ Wright said after his return home to Orem. He’ll remember the fresh corn tortillas, the killer guacamole and the community’s commitment to teamwork, he said.

The June trip marked the final visit in the partnership. The new cement base will support a meeting space, shops and other uses.

Good works

AAA Utah’s Ogden branch donated $5,000 to the Weber County Fire Officers Association to purchase training materials.

The Terracon Foundation gave a $12,000 grant to the University of Utah’s Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health to help expand its online occupational safety and health graduate certificate program. Terracon is an employee-owned engineering consulting firm that acquired IHI Environmental in early 2013.

The Daniels Fund gave a $10,000 grant to the Community Foundation of Utah to support the Utah Social Enterprise Collaborative, a network of 202 nonprofit organizations and others building social enterprise in Utah. Bill Daniels, a pioneer in cable television, established the fund to provide grants and scholarships in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Savage employees in June built 23 garden beds at four Title I elementary schools in Midvale; completed more than 2,174 hours of maintenance, construction, and cleaning work; repainted the teen center, studio, and snack room at the Midvale Boys and Girls Club; treated 125 kids to a carnival celebration and created 2,200 science-focused garden kits for students. Savage specializes in supply chain management solutions.

How to help

Salt Lake County Aging Services is accepting donations of new fans for seniors in need. Call (385) 468-3200 for details.

In its 3rd Annual Stuff the Bus,sponsored by Chase, United Way of Salt Lake is gathering school supplies for 5,000 low-income children served through its Neighborhood Centers. The drive ends Aug. 31. Details are at uw.org.

Bank of Utah is sponsoring a “Shower Them with Love” charity drive during July for moms and babies in need. All locations will accept donations of baby items, and the goods will be sent to charities around the state. Details are at https://www.bankofutah.com/shower_them_with_love.html.

Upcoming events

The Bradley Center for Grieving Children and Families will present its second annual Night of Support For Grieving Families on Monday, July 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the American Heritage School of South Jordan, 11100 South Redwood Road. The event is free and open to those ages 16 and older.

Harley Davidson of Salt Lake is supporting a “Homes For Heroes” motorcycle ride to benefit homeless veterans on July 13. See its Facebook page for details. The ride will start at 9:30 a.m. after a 7 a.m. breakfast at the store at 2928 S State Street in South Salt Lake. It will end on the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs campus. Other partners include Sam’s Club, Harmon’s Grocery, Fox 13, and the Marine Corps League.

Rocky Mountain Care Foundation plans its 6th Annual “Live 2 Give” 5K for Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City at 2 p.m. on Sept. 14, with registration at 1 p.m. Details are at http://rockymountaincarefoundation.org/5K.php. Proceeds will fund the nonprofit’s health care assistance programs.

Comunidades Unidas is holding its Fourth Annual “Design the Pink Dress” contest to raise awareness about breast cancer within the Latino/Hispanic community. Winners will be announced at a fashion show on Oct. 25. Details and registration forms are available at www.cuutah.org.