Beaches Rotaract raises funds to build ‘bottle school’ in Guatemala

Table 1 wine tasting exceeds fundraising goal


Guatemalan children will soon have a new school to attend, thanks to a fundraising initiative being undertaken by the Beaches Rotaract Club in collaboration with the Daytona State club and the nonprofit organization Hug it Forward.

The two Rotaract clubs joined forces last week to host a wine tasting fundraiser as part of their efforts to raise the approximately $20,000 needed to build the “bottle school” – a school that is literally constructed out of discarded plastic soda bottles and trash. Held June 16 at Table 1 in Ponte Vedra Beach, the sold-out event exceeded organizers’ expectations.

“We’ve seen so much support,” said Danielle Fisher, director of international service for the Beaches Rotaract Club. “Our entire Rotary district has really gotten behind us.”Fisher credited Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach member Adam Petrus, who serves as the Rotaract club’s advisor, with helping to generate support for the initiative. Rotary Club members on hand to show support for the fundraiser included club President-elect Michael Bruce and member Rosemary Takacs.

“I’m glad to see (Rotaract) supporting a project internationally,” Takacs said.

The fundraiser was also sponsored by health care technology company Forcura, whose CEO Craig Mandeville was a founding member of the Beaches Rotaract Club.

Building with bottles

Joining the Beaches Rotaract Club for the wine tasting event were Daytona State Rotaract members Justin Gadrim and Michael Tirpak, who noted that the clubs’ fundraising efforts have proven so successful, the original plan to construct a two-room school has been expanded to a three-room facility. Tirpak will travel to Guatemala in January to help build the school in collaboration with the nonprofit Hug it Forward.

According to a resource guide produced by Hug it Forward, bottle schools are constructed out of “ecobricks” – plastic soda and water bottles.

“They take the bottles and pack them with inorganic trash, such as plastic bags,” said Beaches Rotaract member Charlie Flynn, one of the wine tasting event’s organizers.

Once the bottles are stuffed with trash, they’re secured to layers of chicken wire which are then attached to a metal frame. Up to three layers of concrete are then applied and painted. In the past six years, more than 70 bottle schools have been built in collaboration with Hug it Forward at an average cost of $6,500 per classroom.

Rotaract is a Rotary-sponsored service organization for young adults between the ages of 18 and 30. The Beaches Rotaract Club is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach.