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DeWitt: Rotarians advocate English literacy in Chile

Charles Darwin once noted the Chilean city of Coquimbo for its "extreme quietness." Its name was derived from a native Diaguita word meaning "place of calm waters." But the long-standing port city is now becoming the antithesis of its original distinction, with growth in population, development and tourism as reasons behind the change.

Fayetteville resident Antonio Herrera knows all about the region's advancements -- and its setbacks -- because Herrera is a native of Coquimbo. As members of the Syracuse Sunrise Rotary Club, he and fellow Rotarian Don Reese traveled to South America last week to take part in mission work relating to English literacy, and in proposing a 3-H grant to the government -- their main reason for going.

According to the club's web site rotary.org, Rotary provides 3-H grants, which stands for 'Health, Hunger and Humanity,' to "fund large, long-term, international self-help and grassroots development projects that use an integrative approach to address humanitarian needs." Stringent guidelines must be followed for eligibility.

"We want to be able to draft this 3-H grant and provide the community with more opportunities to learn," Herrera said.

Reese and Herrera's stay this month includes visits with principals among area high schools to assess the real needs that must be met to move forward successfully.

Herrera said Rotarians want to support and collaborate with its government initiative to teach kindergarten through 12th grade English to its students. He said he hopes the project provides more meaning than just learning the English language. The project, he said, should enable students with the support they need to read English books from the library, and develop reading, writing and listening skills in the computer lab.

These skills, he said, will aid low-income kids to better compete in the business world, which is ever-changing in Chile these days, especially now that more and more cruise lines are making Coquimbo a popular destination port.

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