During the first week of the new year, Mesquite Rotary members took a trip to Mexicali, Mexico, to participate in a service project; they painted a school for the deaf among other things.

Jake Noll, Rick Tuttle, Brad Ballif, Misty Buchhalter and Keith Buchhalter traveled the 340-plus miles for a trip they aren’t soon likely to forget.

How this service project began is as difficult to answer as, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Keith Buchhalter has been a long-time member of Mesquite Rotary, supporter of the community and all things Mesquite and is always present at events in town but now he took Mesquite Rotary members and his wife along for an international project. So, did Mesquite Rotary inspire Buchhalter or did Buchhalter inspire the Rotary?

Buchhalter says it’s been an ongoing project since 2018 when fellow Rotary member, John Chase, invited Buchhalter on the first trip to Mexicali.

Both Buchhalters agreed that instead of giving each other Christmas gifts, they would take the money otherwise spent on gifts and donate it or use it to fund their international projects. When Rotary members make the journeys to these out of town project, they are responsible for their own travel and lodging expenses.

The Buchhalters knew then that this would be an ongoing commitment but didn’t know exactly what the game plan was, but they knew they were along for the ride no matter what. They solicited the help of other Mesquite Rotary members and made a couple more trips.

In September, the Buchhalters along with Dale Rust placed a Buddy Bench at the same school, took some donated items to a local church and were introduced to a pastor who feeds 100 children and their family members every week for free; it was a humbling experience for the three.

It didn’t matter at this point whether Buchhalter was the chicken or the egg, his and Misty’s hearts were touched, and the couple set about planning the trip in January along with other Rotary clubs from Southern Nevada and California.

The five Mesquite Rotary Members were warmed by the people, places and things they saw when they arrived. The school’s principal was grateful for the help she received in fulfilling her mission of providing a place where the kids feel, welcome, and environment that is appealing but most of all a place where the kids feel safe.

“The kids at the school come from impoverished neighborhoods and daily life with a special needs child is stressful and can sometimes destroy a family,” said Buchhalter. What impressed me the most is that the kids aren’t the only ones who arrived at the school, the entire family came, and the principal encourages and supports family participation in the education of the students.”

The entire experience was so amazing…we didn’t think that a lot of people would show up to paint but over 100 showed up to help. What was supposed to be a three-day project was completed in half a day, the community spirit and involvement was incredibly touching.”

Since the project was completed much earlier than planned, Mesquite Rotary members, along with other Rotary Club members from California and other areas, returned to the church they had visited previously. One room they hadn’t previously seen was visited this time; it contained a water filtration system.

Mexicali water is no good and this filtration system worked well enough for the pastor to charge for filtered water to cover about thirty percent of the church’s expenses; he charged ten pesos for five gallons of water, the US equivalent of about fifty cents.

The church didn’t just wait for handouts from people, they tried everything in their power to be self-sufficient in their ability to help others; they even had a vegetable garden that was lovingly tended by all.

The pastor’s wish was to enlarge the room and upgrade the filtration system already in place; the upgrade would make them one hundred percent self-sufficient; the only thing holding them back was money.

Rotary members from Temecula and Mesquite began the rest of the conversation with one question, “How much?” When all the numbers were tallied the amount came to between $2,300 and $2,500. When they returned to the school for lunch that day they had additional conversations with the clubs from Las Vegas, the two clubs from Temecula and the Boulder City club; in less than one hour, they had commitments from all the clubs for $500 each and those Rotarians changed the lives of many community members for the better.

Buchhalter says the Mexicali project keeps growing; nobody knows exactly where it will lead them, but they know that in doing what they’re doing, they’re changing and improving people’s lives both here in their own community and communities elsewhere.

Rotary member Brad Ballif, who visited Mexicali for the first time since joining Rotary in May of 2019 said that his Rotary experiences have been some of the best of his life. He couldn’t have imagined what being a Rotary member meant before he joined, now he can’t imagine himself not being one.

If you want to get involved in improving your community and don’t know exactly what you’d like to do, Rotary may be a good place to begin looking; there are a number of community projects that Mesquite Rotary and Rotary Clubs International are involved in.

For more information on the Mesquite Rotary Club, contact Keith Buchhalter at 702-427-6278.