Puerto Vallarta is a popular costal paradise in Mexico's state of Jalisco, complete with sandy beaches, world-class resorts and fine seaside cuisine. From the resorts that line the coast, it's hard to imagine that life anywhere near the booming tourist hotspot can be anything other than paradise.
Yet, only miles away, hundreds of locals face a stark difference in living conditions — poorly constructed homes, scarce access to quality education and extreme lack of medical resources.
In Las Mesas, a small town about two hours outside of Puerto Vallarta, the harsh realities of life are hard to ignore, as was soon discovered by Brookfield-Riverside Rotary President Charles Ezell upon his first visit to the region back in 1999.
Nineteen years later, Ezell is proud to say he and other area Rotarians have helped make a difference in the everyday lives of those in Las Mesas — with the opening of a new medical facility and clean water center.
Ezell, a Berwyn resident and former teacher, became involved with the Brookfield Riverside Rotary Club about five years ago, following the dissolution of the former Berwyn Rotary Club, where he was member for several years.
"One of the mottos of Rotary is 'service above self,' and I'm a retired educator, and when I first went as a tourist to Mexico, I did the tourist things and what interested me was wanting to see some Mexican schools," he said. "That's what motivated me."
The idea for the medical facility and clean water project first came to mind years ago after he began taking trips to the region to work with elementary school children, donating school supplies to the region through the help of the Berwyn Rotary.
The owner of a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, who became an acquaintance, took Ezell to the poor community outside the city. Ezell couldn't believe what he saw — filthy water sources and people living with untreated medical conditions.
"When I went to this town for the first time … I noticed that there was a lady there who had a laceration on her foot," Ezell said. "I asked my friend, 'Will she receive any medical help?' And he said, 'No, there's no medical help here at all.'
"Then I asked more questions, and we found out that they get their water supply from the river. The water is untreated and delivered in a hose that is above ground and carries a lot of sediment, and the horses and cattle contaminate the water. The water was awful."
Soon, the wheels began turning. Ezell wanted to tackle the idea of bringing clean water and a low-cost, all-access medical facility to Las Mesas.
"I knew that the Rotary in Puerto Vallarta was interested in clean water projects, and so [my wife and I] went to the president of the [Puerto Vallarta] Rotary and started talking to him," he said.
Read the rest at R-B Landmark.
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