A banquet held in February at the La Jagua School in the Dominican Republic celebrated a Petaluma Rotary club's completion of construction of classrooms and upgrade of electrical, water, and plumbing systems at the school. La Jagua community and religious leaders, students, teachers, as well as representatives of Petaluma Sunrise Rotary and their Dominican partners from the Puerto Plata Rotary, attended the celebration.
Jeff and Carol England, Bob Tuttle, Leland Fishman, Shawn Malpass, and Al Statz represented Petaluma Sunrise Rotary at the event.
The club became connected with the school, which now serves 275 students from 1st through 12th grade, when members Lili and Greg Freitas, were introduced to the area by a relative. What the couple saw at the school that year inspired a project directed toward the improvement of the school for the children and community. In 2007 the school had 250 elementary age children in four classrooms, two separated from each other by thin plywood partitions. Electricity was sporadic and plumbing was primitive.Water had to be carried to the school from a stream. There was no high school in the community.
They initiated the Petaluma-La Jagua partnership in 2007.
Petaluma Sunrise Rotary and the Puerto Plata Rotary partnered on the project, assessing needs and implementing major upgrades. Puerto Plata, located 45 minutes from La Jagua, is the Dominican Republic's largest city on the north coast.
Three new classrooms and an additional stand-alone classroom were built, along with bathroom renovations. In addition, they helped provide potable running water and electricity, along with three reconditioned computers for the new tech center.
During the recent trip to the Dominican Republic, Petaluma's six Rotarians visited 30 schools in the region to identify continuing needs. They found that none of the schools visited has potable water. In addition, electricity is provided two to three hours per day but at unpredictable times during the day.
The Rotarians hope to use the club's expertise and experience to bring all 57 schools in the district to the level reached by La Jagua School.