Supporting Communities from Cayo to Ambergris Caye
Brandon Kitagawa, RPCV Hol Chan Marine Reserve 1999-2001
Thanks to the support of our contributors, Full Basket Belize was able to increase our annual awards to communities from three grants to four in 2013. Half-way through the year, it is clear that this investment is paying off! Here are some of the highlights of the four projects so far:
Cornerstone Foundation is educating women and families about the link between HIV/AIDS and domestic violence throughout the Cayo District. (Check out the interview that follows!) Their accomplishments in the first half of the year include:
- Production of four informational brochures, including printing of 400 copies of each
- Conducting workshops at:
- Five district schools reaching 3000 students
- Four district villages reaching 500 residents
- Three in San Ignacio reaching 40 residents
Cornerstone Foundation brochures on HIV/AIDS and domestic violence.
Ocean Academy supports a Female Leadership Club that helps young women bond, build self-confidence, and develop leadership skills through creative arts and community involvement. (See the feature in our Spring 2013 newsletter.) You can learn more about the great work of the FLC here: http://femaleleadershipcommunity.blogspot.com/. Highlights from their grant so far include:
- Completion of repairs to their library
- Purchase of books for the club
- Purchase of 8 flip cameras for production of short videos
- Their first video project focused on Ocean Academy’s motto, “Preserving Our Heritage; Creating Our Future”
- Attendance at the 8th annual national Women’s Summit in Belize City
YES provides educational and vocational training for at-risk young women in Belize City. They completed their project in the first half of the year with the following outcomes:
- Six seniors completed a course on Belizean cuisine giving them the skills and knowledge to gain employment in the growing hospitality industry in Belize.
- Lunches were provided for all 20 students of the program which served as the only reliable meal a day for most.
YES members hard at work in their kitchen preparing tortillas and plating food. Looks delicious!
Caribbean SEA kicked off their project in the San Mateo community on Ambergris Caye on August 19th. San Mateo is an underdeveloped neighborhood near San Pedro Town that lacks basic infrastructure. Their project will focus on health and environmental education and the development of simple solutions to improve sanitation. You can follow Caribbean SEA's progress on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ICCBelize
Please join Full Basket Belize in thanking our grantees for their outstanding work. We look forward to seeing what more they will accomplish!
We are now accepting applications for the 2014 Community Grants cycle! (See the information box in the upper left hand side of this newsletter for further information.)
FEATURE: Cornerstone Foundation
The following interview was conducted by Kristi Drexler, Vice-president of Full Basket Belize on a recent trip to San Ignacio, Cayo. Ms. Rita Defour is the General Manager of Cornerstone Foundation.
Miss Rita Defour, General Manager of Cornerstone Foundation.
KRISTI: Hello Ms. Rita and congratulations to you and Cornerstone for the Full Basket Belize small projects grant! Can you tell us a little about what this grant will be helping you to do for your community?
RITA: We're doing outreach work to educate people about HIV/AIDS . . . in schools, villages and private businesses. (With the FBB grant) we are producing 5 different brochures to assist them to remember. We also attend events; tomorrow we are going to Sacred Heart College and then next week a women's group bike race.
KRISTI: How many people do you think you'll reach with this educational material?
RITA: Fifteen hundred people going village to village. One thousand students at schools like Sacred Heart.
KRISTI: What is the issue you're educating them about?
RITA: HIV is rampant. We teach them to protect themselves. In Catholic schools, we can't actually talk about it, but we CAN give brochures (which is what the grant funded).
KRISTI: What do you do for the community?
RITA: Even without brochures, getting the message out about this issue is important. Young people come in. We have free condoms if they need it. We're here to increase awareness. Young people are the agents of change.
(Miss Rita shows me a series of brochures they use and describes the cost of each one and explains that in Belize it's expensive to print brochures)
KRISTI: Why is this issue important to you?
RITA: I graduated high school and I want to help people. I want to be a part of the change in people's lives. In 2007, I got the opportunity (here at Cornerstone).
(Miss Rita shows me a letter from Peace Corps saying they are taking out their youth development program so she hopes she can continue to get Peace Corps volunteers involved somehow).
To learn more about Cornerstone Foundation, please visit their website: www.cornerstonefoundationbelize.org/
If you want to help us continue to support community projects like Cornerstone Foundation -- PLEASE DONATE TODAY.
Together, we are making a real difference in the lives of Belizean communities!
Interview with FBB Scholarship Committee Chair, Erin McCool
RPCV Gold Stream Village 2001-2003
You served two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize. Please tell us about the work that you did there.
I worked with Ya’axche Conservation Trust as an Environmental Education volunteer and lived in the neighboring village, Golden Stream. YCT manages the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve. Most of my work with YCT involved outreach and education. The Preserve was land historically used by the neighboring Maya communities for farming and extraction. Part of my job was to educate the communities about the change in land use, the importance of preservation, and identifying alternate ways to use the bordering lands for greater economic benefit. One of our biggest projects limited extraction of downed precious hardwoods after Hurricane Iris. After extracting, we brought in woodworking instructors to train several local applicants to work in our wood working shop to create local furniture and wood products for export. Another big project involved working with local farmers to plant cacao trees along the border of the preserve. At the time, Belize had a guaranteed market with Britain for cacao (chocolate) and YCT helped negotiate contracts for the farmers with Green & Black for chocolate production. Green & Black’s Maya Gold chocolate bars may still contain cacao from Toledo! I also worked with the local schools in southern Belize implementing environmental education curricula and planning field trips and camps at YCT. I helped the Golden Stream school apply for a Peace Corps small project grant to build a chicken coop and purchase chickens that the students raised and then sold (or used!) to fund the school lunch program.
What community did you live in while you volunteered in Belize? What was your favorite things about it? Favorite memory?
I lived in Golden Stream Village, a tiny little village on the Southern Highway (before the highway was paved). Unlike most Maya villages which have only one dialect of Maya spoken, Golden Stream was about a 50/50 mix of K’ektchi and Mopan Maya speakers. My house was a two room wood hut with a mango tree in the front and my double-seater latrine and nice plywood bathing area out back. At the time, Golden Stream did not have electricity, so I had a nice Coleman lantern for light and pumped my water daily from the local pump. In October 2001, Hurricane Iris destroyed most of the homes (including most of mine) in Golden Stream. For three months after the Hurricane, I was forced out my village and worked with the Red Cross while Belize rebuilt.
Golden Stream is a wonderful place with great folks. My neighbors always watched out for me and sent me nice treats of fresh tortillas and stew beans frequently. The ladies in my village never believed that I knew how to feed myself. They thought it was hilarious when I attended a local wedding decked out in my Maya dress that they made for me. My house was never empty, as I always had at least two kids visiting to look at my books or pictures. I had a lot of adventures in Golden Stream and miss daily swims in the river with the kids.
Please bring us up to date on what you have been doing since you left Belize (studies, degrees, anything you want us to know about you!)
After Peace Corps, I went to law school at William & Mary. After graduation in 2006, I moved out to Portland, Oregon, to practice law and explore big mountains. I now live in Wenatchee, Washington, with my husband and our dogs and cats.
How did you get involved with Full Basket Belize? When did you join the board?
I followed FBB on Facebook for years, loved the work that y’all were doing. I applied for a Board position in 2011 after Katie Meehan and Sarah Reynolds encouraged me to get more involved.
What are your responsibilities as chair of the FBB scholarship committee?
The scholarship committee funds deserving Belizean students’ high school tuitions. As scholarship director, I work with the president to get schools involved in the scholarship process by becoming participating schools. We collect applications from students from the participating schools and then work with other committee members to evaluate the scholarship applications and award scholarships to deserving Belizean high school students.
If you are interested in contributing to Full Basket Belize as a volunteer board member, please sign up to run in our upcoming elections! (See the information box in the upper left hand side of this newsletter for further information.)
Our 2013 Graduating Scholarship Students
In June six of our 2012-13 scholarship students graduated from their respective high schools. We are very proud of our graduates!
Ruth Ack of Yo Creek was named the valedictorian of her class at Orange Walk Tech. In addition, she was the Student of the Year for her involvement in the Math Olympiad, Peer Helpers, and the Food and Nutrition Competition. She will continue to study at Corozal Junior College. She writes, “I can gladly say your organization made [my graduation] possible. Indeed I'm grateful for your help and I will not disappoint you. I will dedicate myself to my studies and will forever remember this organization and remain grateful. Thank you once again.”
Orangewalk Tech valedictorian and student of the year, Ruth Ack.
Lyannie Puc graduated from Sacred Heart College in Cayo. She received two awards, one for Religion and one for Spanish. She writes, “Thanks to wonderful people like you, I accomplished one of my goals. I want all of you to know that I am very thankful, for not everyone is so fortunate to get a scholarship like this.” Her future plans are to continue her education by attending sixth form at Sacred Heart College and studying Primary Education. She looks forward to working with young children in her future career as an elementary school teacher.
Lyannie Puc from Sacred Heart College in San Ignacio won awards.
Among our other graduates were Hermisha Garcia and Nesymein Reyes of Delille Academy in Dangriga. Nesymein writes that she is now attending sixth form at Ecumenical Junior College in Dangriga where she is enrolled in General Studies and majoring in Spanish. Her adviser helped her find a job that helps her pay for her further education. She writes, “I really appreciate the help that you gave me. If it wasn't because of you, I wouldn't have come this far in my studies.”
Nesymein Reyes of Delille Academy in Dangriga is attending sixth form.
Pedrito Westby of Chunox St. Viatore Vocational HS was the first recipient of the Dale Battson Corozal District scholarship. His school teachers were happy to note a positive change in Pedrito’s overall behavior and attitude as a result of receiving our financial assistance.
Ashley Morey of Cayo was a three-year scholarship winner and graduated with honors from Mopan Technical High School. She is now enrolled at the University of Belize in their nursing program. Her ultimate goal is to become a doctor. She writes, “I again give my deepest and most sincere appreciation towards you and the Full Basket Belize organization for helping me.”
Ashley Morey graduated with honors from Mopan Technical High School.
With just a little help, it is amazing what dedicated students can do. Donating to Full Basket Belize encourages committed students to work hard to ensure success. Won’t you be a part of this solution? Go to www.fullbasketbelize.org right now and click on the orange DONATE button or drop us a check. You can be assured every cent will go to deserving students like these.
Jo Link, President
CONGRATULATIONS TO THIS YEAR'S GRADUATES! WE CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESS AND CHEER YOUR BRIGHT FUTURE! THANKS FOR MAKING US PROUD!