Departing from Peru this past spring where he was studying the language and culture of the indigenous people of Quechua, thanks to a $12,000 Cultural Scholarship from Rotary District 7980, a 2003 graduate of North Haven High School named Robert Gradoville wrote to the local Rotary club, “A huge load off - I have accepted the position of International Programs Manager with Water.org in Kansas City, MO! My first day of work is June 11, so I am scrambling to get everything ready for a departure from Peru on June 1st. I wanted to… let you know that your investment in me will definitely be put to good use.” Wanting to thank his sponsors in person, he addressed the club on the very morning he had to drive to Kansas City in early June.
He explained that as Rotary’s Cultural Scholar he was given the chance to live the life of a rural farmer at 14,000 feet in the Andes Mountains of southern Peru. He said that the locals were “tough, humble people who rely on the land, or the ‘pachamama’ in their native tongue, to support the agriculture and livestock that fuel their meager livelihoods.” He added, “ I saw first-hand how climate change was altering the weather patterns they had relied on for centuries, and heard directly from their mouths how conflicts over water scarcity were becoming more serious every year.”
The self-described “ambassador of the United States” stated that the combination of his engineering training, along with the on-the-ground knowledge of a Peruvian environmental organization, had helped him to suggest potential water management improvements that would “help these simple people adapt to the changing world around them.” He concluded, “In a part of the world where the government is all-but-absent, I am grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to give back while learning so much about the front line of climate change."
Once again, expressing his gratitude in an e-mailed update to the Rotary club in mid-August he wrote, “As you might have guessed, I am managing programs to provide clean water and sanitation to communities in developing countries. I will soon travel to India to meet some of our overseas partners, and see first-hand how our projects are implemented. My time in Peru was crucial training for me, helping me to understand the complexity of water management and the many, conflicting uses of the world's most indispensable liquid.”
His closing comment holds special meaning for Gaetano Casella, his local mentor who was mainly responsible for his receiving the Rotary district’s scholarship (and last year’s Rotary president) because he was the force behind the creation of the newly chartered Rotaract Club in the greater New Haven area. Gradoville wrote, “Additionally, in my time in Kansas City since moving back from Peru, I have helped to start a group of young adults that will be kicking off the first Rotaract Club in the Kansas City metro area."