Rotarian Ruth Mathieson was very pleased to introduce Colin Thacker to the Rotary Club of Belleville.  Colin is a past president of the Rotary Club of North Bay and chair of the Rotary District 7010 Leadership Learning Institute.  Now retired, Colin worked for 33 years as a certified manager of volunteer resources and has written six books on the subject of volunteering.  In 1999, he was presented with the Linda Buchanan award by Professional Administrators of Volunteer Resources in Ontario for his outstanding contributions in the volunteer administration field.  The Rotary Club of Belleville has supported the Global Grant for the Guatemalan Literacy project, Colin Thacker being the Canadian Arm of this project.  He is guest speaker today to talk about this ambitious Global Grant.
The Guatemala Literacy Program (GLP) is a network of individual Rotarians, Rotary clubs and districts, and the nonprofit organization Cooperative for Education (CoEd) with a common interest in improving education for underserved students in Guatemala. Guatemala is an island of illiteracy in Central America.  Eighty (80%) percent of the people live in poverty, one-third cannot read or write.  There is a lack of opportunity in this country and many walk/travel to the United States for a job.  If we can help these people get educated, they can obtain a middle income job in Guatemala.
Colin's passion for this project came from his own education challenges during high school.  He went on to achieve a honours degree in political science from Laurentian University, a diploma in human resource management from Canadore College, a masters degree in education from Nipissing University and an advance certificate in volunteer management from Washington State University.  Colin's vision is for all children to have an opportunity for education.  Almost a decade ago, Colin saw poverty first hand.  He saw children who wanted to continue their education, but couldn't.  They were pulled out of school to help farm by grade six.  Homes had dirt floors.  Whole families would survive in an 8' x 11' space.  He now works tirelessly on the Guatemala Literacy Project.  Computers and textbooks valued at almost a million dollars have been sent to the effort.  Todate, there has been a total of 207 textbook projects, 53 computer centres created, 94 reading programs put in place and a total of 741 scholarship and sponsorship projects that benefit the impoverished youth.  The Guatemala Literacy Project (GLP) is one of the largest grassroots, multi-club, multi-district projects in Rotary. More than 600 clubs and 80 districts have been working together since 1997 to improve education for underserved students in Guatemala. In that time, nearly 225,500 students have been served through four sustainable programs that are tested and proven to work. In 2017, then-RI President Ian Riseley called the GLP “the gold standard of Rotary projects” for its sustainability and impact.
Colin's current focus is on the RISE program, a program developed to bridge the gap in education.  For $100 a month, individuals or Rotary Clubs can sponsor a RISE  scholar to remain in school, graduate Grade 12 and provide an opportunity for a better education, career and life.  RISE is part of the GLP and this year, Rotary Clubs and individuals are rallying to sponsor over 300 Rise Program scholars who will not be able to stay in school next year without this financial support.  Rotarian Terry Thomas thanked Colin for bringing this project to our attention.  Terry has had a first hand experience working in Guatemala and heard good things about the Guatamela Literacy Project.