In describing the work of the West Austin Rotary Club, KC Cerny highlights the service organization’s motto: “Service above Self. ” Over the past few years, KC has truly lived this motto by working tirelessly with Rotary International to help secure two of the largest grants in Project Schoolhouse’s history. Combined, these Rotary International grants funded water projects in three communities.
Projects in El Aulo and Nueva Jerusalem were completed in 2020 and the third project in Bilampi will break ground in early 2021. KC has been an active Rotarian since 1990 and is currently the President of the West Austin Rotary Club. KC and the sponsorship of the West Austin Rotary Club were instrumental Project Schoolhouse winning these grants.
In a recent conversation with KC, he explained Rotary International is a significant funder of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects around the world and has a long history of advancing efforts to further peace and understanding. Rotary International, founded in 1905, quickly spread around the globe, with clubs in Europe, Asia and South and Central America. In fact, one requirement for securing this global grant was establishing a partnership with a Rotary Club in Nicaragua, which we did in Matagalpa. The global grant funds for the projects are distributed through the bank accounts of the local Matagalpa Rotary Club. As KC explains, “Rotary International doesn’t just fund these types of projects, but they get highly involved in them as well.”
In describing his personal connections to the work of Project Schoolhouse, KC reflected on his experiences as a camper. “If you have ever been camping, you know how important it is to find clean water.” That’s why when Tab gave a Project Schoolhouse presentation to the West Austin Rotary Club a few years ago he was intrigued. But KC was not the only West Austin Rotarian who was intrigued by Tab’s presentation: “Several [Rotarians] had positions with major corporations in South America…and they were intrigued by what Tab was talking about.” KC and the other Rotarians connected to the notion of just how vital it is to have clean, running water. They connected to the hardships related to having children walk for miles every day to fill buckets of water from the river or other water sources, how these children miss school and often get sick from drinking unsanitary water. KC and the other Rotarians were also attracted to Project Schoolhouse’s mission to create low-cost and effective water systems that could be installed and maintained by folks living in these rural communities.
As KC explains, “from a Rotary International standpoint what this means is you’ve got a project that delivers clean water, meaning the disease incidence goes down, the kids get to go to school and people aren’t spending hours just hauling water up the hillside. You know, you can actually be out working in your fields or gardens…The point here is, it is economically viable and it helps promote the health of the community. And health has been something that Rotary International has been focused on for decades.” KC continues, “and having Tab visit Nicaragua on a regular basis is very important to Rotary International for purposes of funding the Global Grant.”
When asked about future collaborations between the West Austin Rotary Club and Project Schoolhouse, KC extended a warm invitation to members of the greater Project Schoolhouse family to attend future Rotary Meetings and consider joining the organization. And KC expressed excitement about visiting Nicaragua. Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, KC planned to visit the sites funded by the Rotary International Grant. After securing public health clearance, KC and his wife plan to lead a team of Rotarians to visit the three villages in the Spring of 2022–”fingers crossed.”
Written by Ana Valente and Kris Sloan