Letter from our President
Jo Link, RPCV Belmopan 2000-2002
Spring is here! Temperatures are warming, flowers are blooming, and everyone has new energy. And our scholarship director, Erin McCool, needs that new energy, as spring is the busy season for identifying deserving students for our Full Basket Belize scholarships.
Erin’s process goes as follows. First, she must ask Belizean secondary schools to become “participating schools” and have them nominate potential worthy applicants. Second, she must design and distribute applications to new and renewing scholarship prospects attending these schools. Then she must collate the multi-page applications, recommendations and grade reports for distribution to volunteer readers. After all the readers have scored the applications, following the grading rubrics prescribed by Erin to help insure commonality in scoring, then she must tabulate all scores and rank them highest to lowest. Lastly, Erin must notify the winners, those with the highest overall scores, as well as their schools and the public in early May. This is an involved process that takes much volunteer time and effort, and we are glad to have Erin spearheading it all.
Now that you know how we will choose our 2013-14 academic year scholarship winners, you may be wondering about our current scholarship winners. For the 2012-13 school year, we have 14 recipients representing secondary schools throughout Belize. In June six of these students will graduate from Form IV. All of these graduates-to-be have been exemplary students with grade reports and teacher comments that have made their families (and us!) very proud. The eight students not yet graduating are eligible to apply for renewal scholarships to aid them in completing their high school educations.
Our Vice President, Kristi Drexler, recently traveled to Belize and met with many of our scholarship winners as well as some of our community grantees. In this issue, she shares some stories and photos taken while she was in Belize during March and April 2013. Enjoy seeing some of the smiling faces of these grateful recipients and read about how your donations have transformed their lives. Kristi will be in Belize again in May and hopes to meet with the current Peace Corps Country Director to reiterate our wish to liaise with the Peace Corps in-country projects and volunteers regarding our grants and scholarships. We appreciate the time Kristi takes to put a face to our organization for our beneficiaries.
All of the scholarships and community grants you are reading about here are made possible only through your generous contributions to Full Basket Belize. (Please see the donation information on the left hand side of this newsletter.)
Remember that all donations to Full Basket Belize are fully tax deductible. Your involvement in FBB is vital to the growth and success of our programs for the benefit of Belize and its people.
- Jo Link
P. S. If you wish to become more involved in FBB, we are always looking for new insight and energy on our board of directors. Elections are approaching in December, and, if you want to become more involved, please contact us through our website to voice your interest. We would love to have you join us!
Spring has us in the mood for the Cayo Market! Photo credit: Kristi Drexler
Participating Schools in our
2013-14 Scholarship Program
Belize District: Caye Caulker Ocean Academy, King’s College
Cayo District: Cayo Christian Academy, Mopan Technical High School, Our Lady of Guadalupe High School, Sacred Heart College
Corozal District: Chunox St. Viatore Vocational High School
Orange Walk District: Muffles College, Orange Walk Technical High School, San Juan Bautista High School
Stann Creek District: Georgetown Technical High School
| Interview with Marc Kadish
Director, Pro Bono Activities, Mayer Brown LLP
I have served as Mayer Brown’s Director of Pro Bono Activities and Litigation Training since 1999. I oversee the firm’s global pro bono program, cultivating pro bono client relationships, like Mayer Brown’s relationship with Full Basket Belize, and opportunities that benefit society while providing the firm’s lawyers with training, professional development and fulfillment. Mayer Brown has over 1500 lawyers and offices all over the globe.
For more than 20 years before joining Mayer Brown, I was a clinical law professor, teaching such subjects as evidence, criminal law and lawyering skills. Now, in addition to identifying worthwhile pro bono projects, my responsibilities include supervising and training newer lawyers. My direct representational or supervisory work has included matters pertaining to the death penalty, murder and other felonies, prisoners’ civil rights, political asylum, the firm’s Seventh Circuit Project, the Settlement Assistance Program for the Northern District of Illinois, Wills for Heroes and the Violence Against Women’s Act Project.
As I write this, I am at the airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where we conducted a two-day program for Cambodian university students on developing trial skills. We also spent two days working with Cambodian law professors on how to conduct trial skill programs so they will be able to conduct the program themselves in the future. While here, I had the pleasure of meeting Robin Mardeusz, one of Full Basket Belize’s founding members. We then spent three days at our Bangkok office working with a young partner on a very unusual case where we have been asked to seek a Royal Pardon from the King for an inmate. Visiting a Thai prison to meet with our client was a very unusual experience.
Soaking up the Belizean breeze. Photo credit: Marc Kadish
How did the firm first get involved with Full Basket Belize (formerly International Friends of Belize)?
I can't claim any credit for Mayer Brown’s involvement. All the credit is due to Sarah Reynolds who brought the project to the firm when she started as an associate in 2005. All we did was approve the request to open the project as a pro bono matter. Since 2005, Mayer Brown has dedicated over 1200 hours of legal work to Full Basket Belize. Our work has included filing the Organization’s initial incorporation papers, drafting contracts for donation recipients, and protecting Full Basket Belize’s intellectual property rights in the United States and in Belize. Sarah Reynolds was awarded Mayer Brown’s Pro Bono Associate of the Year awards, in part for her work on this project.
Why do you think Full Basket Belize is an important organization to support?
Young lawyers at large law firms work very hard. In order to successfully involve them in pro bono work you have to find projects that motivate them and speak to their passions. When a lawyer brings a pro bono project to the firm, that is a good indication that the lawyer is passionate about the cause. That in and of itself is enough to say Full Basket Belize is an important organization. In addition, all of the people who started Full Basket Belize were passionate about the organization because they were former Peace Corps or other volunteers who had lived and worked in Belize. For over seven years, they have worked to make a difference there. And now since my family has visited Belize, I understand why it is important to support this organization and the country. We loved the people and the experiences we had in Belize.
You visited Belize for the first time this year. Feel free to share one of your fond memories/experiences. What was your favorite? Favorite activity? Favorite Belizean foods?
We liked EVERYTHING! We had three different experiences in Belize. We stayed at Belcampo outside of Punta Gorda in southern Belize. It was a beautiful place. The location and the facilities were great. We hiked and took two long kayak trips on the river. It was so peaceful and pretty. We saw lots of birds, and even saw some howler monkeys.
After that, we went to Glovers Reef and stayed at Isla Marisol, a small caye out in the sea. We snorkeled and my wife and younger daughter tried scuba diving. We met a lot of interesting and nice people at the place.
Finally, we went to Cayo where we visited Caracol. But I would have to say that spending time in the ATM cave was one of the most unusual experiences in my life. We all felt like Indiana Jones: hiking across rivers, swimming into the cave and then walking, scrambling and swimming into the depths of the cave was amazing. We also had a great time ziplining at Calico Jacks!
Rowing on the river Photo credit: Marc Kadish
Brandon Kitagawa, RPCV Hol Chan Marine Reserve 1999-2001
This year marks the seventh year of Full Basket Belize’s Community Grant Program. Over US$15,000 has been awarded thus far, funding grassroots endeavors in all corners of Belize to improve the education, health and environment of local communities. Since FBB is completely volunteer-run, nearly every cent donated goes directly to the programs we underwrite.
For the full list of 2013 Grant Recipients, please visit OUR WEBSITE!
FEATURE: The Female Leadership Community
FBB’s award will support the Female Leadership Community (FLC) at Ocean Academy, a high school on Caye Caulker. The FLC was established to counter high drop-out rates and high teen pregnancy rates among the island’s young women. Using poetry and literature discussions, the FLC will help young women build self-esteem, trust, communication and leadership skills, and awareness of career and academic opportunities.
FLC, sharing the love! (left to right): Kimberly Vilk, Susanne Michelus, Xena, Cheyenne, and Kyra. Photo credit: Joni Miller
The following interview was conducted by Kristi Drexler, Vice President of the Board of Directors for Full Basket Belize. On a recent trip to visit Ocean Academy (high school) on Caye Caulker, Kristi was invited to sit down with members Kyra, Xena and Cheyenne of the Female Leadership Community (FLC), a Full Basket Belize community grant recipient.
The leader of the FLC, Susanne Michelus, explained that today's meeting was about dreams and goals:
KRISTI: What an excellent topic of discussion! What are you dreams and goals?
XENA: My dream is to sing, but I'm nervous in front of people! (she smiles). I want to study and become a trial lawyer/practice criminal law or acting/performing. I want to dress up and be professional.
KYRA: I want to be an archaeologist. I've visited 11 sites already.
CHEYENNE: I want to be a doctor and study in Cuba. I want to communicate and treat people.
KRISTI: Are you all from Caye Caulker? Why are you going to Ocean Academy?
KYRA: I'm from south Belize City. It's pretty dangerous. Ocean Academy is safe and there's more opportunity with groups like FLC.
XENA: I was going to Wesley College but this is better…. This is a better opportunity for school - more peaceful. I hope to continue at St. John’s.
CHEYENNE: I was raised in Punta Gorda. I had to choose between Julian Cho High School or this one. My dad convinced me to live here so I gave it a try. It's awesome - there's so much opportunity.
KRISTI: (to everyone) - What is FLC?
SUZANNE: It teaches you to be strong and independent; to stand up and be strong, to believe in yourself.
JONI MILLER (administrator/co-founder of Ocean Academy): We have no school counselor; Susanne started this FLC program to promote girls' empowerment, self-esteem, life choices and career options. They meet weekly and invite female role models to come speak. (That day they hosted Kimberly Vilk, a singer/songwriter who spends a lot of time on Caye Caulker--in photo below.)
FLC students Xena and Kyra with singer/songwriter Kimberly Vilk.
Photo credit: Kristi Drexler
To learn more about the Female Leadership Academy, please visit their blog and Facebook page.
If you want to help FBB continue to support community projects like the Female Leadership Community at Ocean's Academy AND scholarships for dozens of deserving secondary students in Belize -- PLEASE DONATE TODAY. Together, we are making a real difference in the lives of Belizean communities and youth!
Full Basket Belize is a non-profit organization whose volunteer directors dedicate their time to make sure our modest budget is spent as effectively as possible. With low overhead costs, the work of volunteers, and generous donations from supporters, Full Basket Belize has made a small but significant difference in the communities of Belize. In providing scholarship funds to secondary schoolchildren, as well as grants for community projects, Full Basket Belize has been able to continue service to the communities of Belize and remain connected to a country we love so much.
Full Basket Belize does not discriminate against any employee, volunteer, or grant applicant because of race, creed, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, national origin, disability, age, or covered veteran status. It is also Full Basket Belize’s policy to comply with all applicable national and local laws pertaining to nondiscrimination and equal opportunity.
Full Basket Belize is a volunteer-run, nonprofit organization (501c3). All contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
P.O. BOX 65281
Washington, DC 20035