ROTARY RENEWS MISSION Group builds basketball court in Dominican Republic village

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The Salem-Methuen Rotary Club not only believes in giving back to the local community, but internationally as well.

Club members raised $6,500 simply by word of mouth to build a basketball court in a poor village in Sabaneta, Dominican Republic.

“We let our friends know, our families know,” club treasurer Veronica Calixto said of the money raised. “Some people gave $5, $10, $100, whatever amount and it adds up. We did it over a five-month period of time.”

In January Calixto and president-elect Andy Carace, along with their spouses, traveled to the Dominican Republic to oversee the building of the court.

Calixto said the club send half of the money to the Rotary Club of San Juan De Le Maguana so construction of the court could begin.

“A company out there purchased the materials and delivered them to the site,” Calixto said. “The arrangement was the local community members were going to do the physical labor and build the court.”

Upon their arrival, Calixto said the number of people that welcomed them was unbelievable.

“The community that we did the basketball court in was amazing,” Calixto said. “It seemed like everyone from the village came out to (greet us). People just came streaming in and in and in, giving us hugs and kisses.”

Previous to building the basketball court, the Rotary had raised $12,000 in 2004 to build a school in Guachupita, Dominican Republic, which is outside Santo Domingo.

After receiving a phone call, Carace and his wife Nancy traveled back to the school after overseeing construction of the court.

“The gentleman that contacted me was the owner of the local Caterpillar heavy equipment company in Santo Domingo,” Anndy Carace explained. “When we did the school project in Guachupita, some of the building materials had been stolen. The local coordinator of the project contacted this man and he paid for the missing building materials and added a wall with a fence, which was not part of the original design.”

He said the man and other local businessmen have since begun funding similar projects throughout the Dominican Republic.

When the Caraces visited the school, most of the children were in awe of Nancy’s digital camera.

“When we were getting ready to leave, this little boy grabbed the sister’s skirt and said something I didn’t understand,” Nancy Carace explained. “The sister asked him to return to his seat and his beautiful eyes filled up and he almost cried. I couldn’t have that be the last sight that I saw so I asked the sister what was wrong and she said, ‘he wants a picture.’ The children have never seen a digital camera and loved seeing themselves on the camera.”

According to Nancy Carace, when she went to take the little boy’s picture, he took Andy’s hand and said “you too.”

“I really love that picture,” Nancy Carace said. “It shows true joy in this little boy’s eyes and to me that’s what it’s all about.”

Andy Carace said the Rotary Club reaches out internationally because the group itself is international. He said the group is funding other projects such as Rotoplast, which fixes children’s clef lip in Third World countries, as well as helping eradicate polio from most of the world.

Local projects include feeding all the participants at the Special Olympics, food baskets for the needy and scholarships for local students.

Have a story idea? Gayle Simone can be reached at 978-970-4838 or by e-mail at gsimone@thevalleydispatch.com.