The Vermillion Rotary Club held its weekly meeting Tuesday, May 16, at the Neuharth Center on the campus of USD. President Mercy Hobbs opened the meeting and began with the invocation. Several guests were introduced and Joe Edelen led us in singing.
Rotarian Ben Nesselhuf introduced the program for the day. The program was titled "Nueva Vida" or "New Life" and was presented by Seth Nesselhuf. Seth is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and holds a degree in environmental design. He used a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate his program.
Seth had recently spent six months in Guatemala. He had been asked to join a team, which was to go to a Guatemalan village, which had recently been devastated by a landslide. Three thousand people were displaced by that event and were being housed in a tent city in a soccer field.
The objective of his trip was to identify land that would be safe enough to relocate the destroyed neighborhood. During the hurricane season there are frequent torrential downpours and major landslides that occur every few years.
After a 13-hour trip from the capital, Guatemala City, he arrived at the village. He later discovered that the other members would not be coming and that he "is" the team. He was able to enlist the help of a university student to help with the project. When he examined the surrounding terrain he concluded that the whole area was mountainous and geologically susceptible to landslides. He also discovered that the tent city was right in the middle of a major watershed and would likely become a river during the rainy season.
The local mayor and city officials were unorganized and not very helpful. Since the situation was critical, Mr. Nesselhuf decided to at leasttry to do something. He organized a committee of local leaders to try to find a new area for the displaced. They gathered testimonials from the residents and approached the vice president of the country in Guatemala City to seek help and support. When the mayor found out he threw Seth out of town.
Seth and his group stood up to the mayor and organized a press conference in Guatemala City to raise awareness of the plight of the displaced people. This helped to get the attention of the central government. As of now the government has not given permission or bought the land to relocate the people but Mr. Nesselhuf is hopeful that something will be done before the next rainy season.
He ended his presentation with a time for questions.