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Late doctor's passion for Guatemala is passed to others

A Snohomish doctor's mission to help a Central American village continues with fellow Rotarians.

  • Former Everett mayor Pete Kinch greets school children in the Guatemalan village of Recero B.

    Photo Courtesy of Pete Kinch

    Former Everett mayor Pete Kinch greets school children in the Guatemalan village of Recero B.

  • Accompanied by her grandchildren, a widow from the Guatemalan village of Canton las Maravillas wears a quilt made by the quilters from Everett's Faith...

    Photo Courtesy of Pete Kinch

    Accompanied by her grandchildren, a widow from the Guatemalan village of Canton las Maravillas wears a quilt made by the quilters from Everett's Faith Lutheran Church.

  • A young woman from the village of San Jose Jolantaj gathers water from a puddle for her family to use as drinking water.

    Photo Courtesy of Pete Kinch

    A young woman from the village of San Jose Jolantaj gathers water from a puddle for her family to use as drinking water.

  • Villagers of the village of Canton las Maravillas in Guatemala pose for a photo.

    photo Courtesy of Marco Tulio Maldonado

    Villagers of the village of Canton las Maravillas in Guatemala pose for a photo.

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By Julie Muhlstein, Herald Columnist
Published:
  • Former Everett mayor Pete Kinch greets school children in the Guatemalan village of Recero B.

    Photo Courtesy of Pete Kinch

    Former Everett mayor Pete Kinch greets school children in the Guatemalan village of Recero B.

  • Accompanied by her grandchildren, a widow from the Guatemalan village of Canton las Maravillas wears a quilt made by the quilters from Everett's Faith...

    Photo Courtesy of Pete Kinch

    Accompanied by her grandchildren, a widow from the Guatemalan village of Canton las Maravillas wears a quilt made by the quilters from Everett's Faith Lutheran Church.

  • A young woman from the village of San Jose Jolantaj gathers water from a puddle for her family to use as drinking water.

    Photo Courtesy of Pete Kinch

    A young woman from the village of San Jose Jolantaj gathers water from a puddle for her family to use as drinking water.

  • Villagers of the village of Canton las Maravillas in Guatemala pose for a photo.

    photo Courtesy of Marco Tulio Maldonado

    Villagers of the village of Canton las Maravillas in Guatemala pose for a photo.

As Everett's mayor from 1990 to 1994, Pete Kinch focused on local concerns. Even then, part of his heart was in rural Guatemala.
It all started with a harmonica player.
"Dr. Aller came to Rotary to play his harmonica and tell us about Guatemala," said Kinch, a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Everett-Port Gardner.
"We'd give him a check," said Kinch, 67. "He was a jovial type of guy with an infectious personality."
Dr. Leeon Aller, a Snohomish family physician for many years, was 88 when he died of Parkinson's disease in 2008. Between 1985 and 1998, Aller and his wife Virginia had made 48 trips to Santa Cruz Barillas, a town in the mountains of northwest Guatemala. They helped build a school and hospital, and promoted reforestation in the coffee-growing area scarred by a decades-long civil war.
The Hands for Peacemaking Foundation, a nonprofit organization the Allers founded in 1985, continues to improve life for the area's poorest people, who subsist on little more than corn tortillas and salt.
On July 18, Kinch arrived back in Everett from his 10th trip to Guatemala. There, he celebrated the opening of a new Aller Skill Center. Named in honor of the late doctor, the two-story concrete center in Santa Cruz Barillas was built with donations and help from the Rotary Club of Everett-Port Gardner. Kinch is the unpaid executive director of the Hands for Peacemaking Foundation, which is supported by gifts from churches, clubs and individuals.
Rotary clubs in Marysville, south Everett and other areas have been involved in building schools and other projects in Guatemala.
Through the years, Kinch has been joined on service trips to Guatemala by many from Snohomish County, including Buzz Rodland and Harv Jubie. Kinch said Rodland's mother, Betty Rodland, made generous contributions to buy school desks. Now, the Aller center will be used to teach people to build the desks, and as a training and storage place for stoves, water collection tanks and other items being installed each year in the homes of area villagers.
"It's all paid for, thanks to the generosity of people around here," he said. "Now we have nine people working there. We're teaching them skills, how to make a living."
Kinch has taken his 10-year-old grandson, Aaron Andrews-Kinch, to Guatemala, and the boy helped raise $300 for seeds to help plant vegetable gardens.
With so many in need in our own country, Kinch said he is still drawn to Guatemala by a level of poverty most Americans can't imagine.
"The average person there makes $3 to $5 a day," he said. "Traditionally, kids go to about the third grade, that's it. It's easy for us to say kids should be in school, but we have to be careful that we don't impose our standards. Our whole goal is teaching self-sufficiency," Kinch said. "We're so blessed here, we don't realize."
He's seen small successes that make a big difference. Women have started small businesses such as candle-making to help support families.
One big project was providing water storage tanks. People have been accustomed to either walking hours to other villages for water or collecting it from mud puddles -- for drinking water -- Kinch said.
On his recent trip, Kinch visited Marco Tulio Maldonado, director of Hands for Peacemaking in Guatemala. For two years, the young man was part of the Kinch family when he came here to study at Everett Community College. "He did well in school, he studied real hard," said Kinch, who's pleased that Maldonado has since married and named a son after Kinch. The young family is planning a visit to Everett.
It all started with Dr. Aller's first talk to the Rotary.
"We were just curious where our money was going," Kinch said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.
Learn more
To find out about the Hands for Peacemaking Foundation's work in Guatemala, go to www.handsforpeacemaking.org.



Story tags » EverettSnohomishPeopleTravelFaithPoverty

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