The 73-year-old, who is originally from Holland, has spent many years helping out in his communities, not just locally, but internationally, as well.
He’s been a driving force behind the Guatemala Stove Project since the first time he visited the country in 2009.
“I saw the stoves and the way these families were living, and I knew we needed to find them better stoves,” Rovers said of the work in Guatemala.
Rovers first visited Guatemala on a mission trip through the Immaculate Conception Parish in Truro where the group installed a playground at a school.
A year later, Rovers and Steve Ellis visited the country again and found a local manufacturer of stoves that would decrease the amount of wood the natives burned by about 75 per cent.
“That same year, we went back over March break and put in 110 stoves. We had a source and we knew where to go.”
Since then, Rovers has returned on numerous occasions to install more of the concrete block stoves, which allow for better living conditions inside the homes.
Rovers said the reaction from families who fire up the stove for the first time is hard to describe.
“There’s no smoke in the home, so it’s good to see a pile of beans on the stove while the tortillas are being made at the back of the room,” he said with a laugh. “The women are happy and get big smiles on their faces.”
It’s work such as the Guatemala Stove Project that has earned Rovers a Community Service Award tomorrow night through the Rotary Club of Truro’s 87th annual Charter Night.
“It’s an honour to receive the award. I’m humbled by it because I’m just doing what I figure I should be doing. I don’t think it’s anything special, but I guess others do.”
Each stove costs about $200 to $225 and all the stoves are funded through donations from both church fundraisers and individuals.
“When I first saw the stoves they had, I couldn’t imagine living in that smoke all the time,” he said, adding the stoves were basically open fires with a plank overtop that pots sit on. “When it’s a damp day, that smoke stays right in there. I was in a house for about 30 seconds and I couldn’t stay in there.”
With men in Guatemala constantly working, women and children are often in the house when the stove is on.
“We had gone down there to build a school or houses or something, but the houses are not unreasonable for their weather conditions. But I had to get out of that smoke.”
Along with the stove project, locally Rovers has put in countless hours with numerous causes.
He was on the fundraising board for the Colchester East Hants Health Centre and is on the finance committee for the Immaculate Conception Church. He was also a member of the parish committee for St. Bridget’s Church in Shubenacadie for more than 10 years, and was a board member for the Don Henderson Memorial Sportsplex. Also, he was president of the Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia when he was a dairy farmer, and was also with the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture.
Ken MacLean, one of three selection committee members for the club, said Rovers’ name kept coming to the front of the pack.
“It’s really for what he’s done over the years. He does things quietly and is very active internationally, as well as in the community,” said MacLean, adding international work is also something Rotary clubs consider.
“We felt he’s really done a lot for the community.”
Also receiving awards at the annual charter night include Keith Gillis of G&G Computers (Rotarian of the Year award) and Lorne MacDougall (special recognition from Rotary International).
The charter night is open to the public and tickets can be purchased by calling Jim Goit at 895-7676.
Name: Leo Rovers
Age: 73. He will celebrate his 74th birthday next month while in Guatemala, the third birthday he’s celebrated there.
Originally from: Holland
Immigrated to Canada: in 1952, became a Canadian citizen in 1957.
Moved to Colchester County: in 1972
President of: L&R Construction Ltd. in Stewiacke
IF YOU GO:
What: Rotary Club of Truro’s 87th Annual Charter Night.
When: Feb. 21
Where: Best Western Plus Glengarry in Truro.
Tickets: $30; call Jim Goit at 895-7676
Receiving awards: Leo Rovers (Community Service Award); Keith Gillis (Rotarian of the Year); Lorne MacDougall (special recognition from Rotary International).
Guest speakers: Tiana Fusco, a Rotary Peace Scholar, and Bryn Styles, a member of the Rotary International board of directors.