Carlos Flores is visiting Tyler for the first time, but he doesn't expect it to be the last. The Honduran resident is spending the week in Tyler to discuss potential partnerships between three Rotary Districts - two in the United States and one in Central America.

Flores shared Monday about the value of partnerships during the South Tyler Rotary Club's meeting.

The partnerships provide resources and knowledge that can improve life for impoverished people in Latin America and open the eyes of others to the need.

"We have to share what God has given," Flores said.

Rotary Clubs in East Texas and Florida have been part of funding and implementing service projects and programs in Central America for years.

But during Flores' visit, the goal is to create a more formalized partnership and prioritize needs in the countries of Honduras, Belize and Guatemala.

The outcome ideally will be a three- to five-year long-range plan outlining projects to be completed.

"This is an opportunity for us to put a face with a need, a face and a voice with a country and other Rotarians," G. Lee Montgomery, district governor for District 5830 and Rotary Club of South Tyler member, said.

Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world, according to a local news release.

There are 1.2 million Rotary members in 34,000 clubs worldwide. The three districts involved in the local conversations for partnership include a combined 159 clubs.

The participating Rotary districts include one that encompasses West Central Florida, another that covers Northeast Texas, Southeastern Oklahoma and Southwestern Arkansas, and another that includes Honduras, Belize and Guatemala.

Three visitors from Florida and two from Honduras attended Monday's meeting. The Rotarians shared about the benefits of these partnerships.

Flores said the large majority of people in these three Central American countries live in poverty and need education, sanitation and health services.

"Rotary as an organization is involved in all those areas," he said.

Tom Wagner from Florida said the projects do not have to be huge to make an impact. Something as seemingly small as building a restroom in a school makes a difference, he said.

Jim Weaver from Florida said his club made a commitment to travel to Honduras twice a year after he was inspired by someone who went there.

One of the first projects his club worked on cost $1,500 and involved pouring cement to provide a dry, flat place where children could be fed after school.

Now, in the fourth year of their commitment, they are working on building a well in an impoverished village. This is a $65,000 project funded by a Rotary Global grant.

They are partnering with other organizations working in the country as they work on these projects.

Beverly Lynne of Florida said as a retired educator of a school with 100 percent low-income population, she was reluctant to get involved in a project in another country.

She saw need in her own backyard. However, she eventually was convinced and now she and her husband are traveling to Honduras in February.

"I get that Rotary's bigger than just our little town," she said.

In addition to Flores, Melvin Tejada, a Rotary Club member from Honduras, also attended. Tejada is executive director of a charitable organization that provides free eye surgeries to people in need.

Flores will continue his tour of East Texas this week by visiting several area nonprofits; the cities of Longview, Henderson and Lindale; and having discussions about potential grant and exchange opportunities.

"The reason he's here is to increase international understanding and service among the districts," Montgomery said.

Twitter: @TMTEmily




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