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The Cho! Quarterly - Summer 2013

Summer 2013


Full Basket Belize wishes you lively and joyful September celebrations!


Inna Disya Issue:

Letter from the President

Announcing our 2013 - 2014 Scholarship Winners!

The Belize Zoo Turns 30!

Community Grants Program Featuring: Cornerstone Foundation

Interview with FBB Scholarship Committee Chair, Erin McCool

Our 2013 Scholarship Graduates



Visit our website www.fullbasketbelize.org and click on the orange DONATE button to make your contribution. Alternatively, you may send a check to:

Full Basket Belize

PO Box 65281

Washington, DC 20035

Donations are tax deductible.


Applications for 2014 Community Grants Available September 2nd - October 11, 2013!

Full Basket Belize will open the application process for 2014 Community Grants focused on health, education, and/or the environment on September 2nd. Applications will be available on our website: www.fullbasketbelize.org and will be due by October 11th. If you have any questions or want to be included on the grant mailing list, contact FBB's Community Grants Director, Brandon Kitagawa at:

brandon@ fullbasketbelize.org




Board of Directors

Jo Link


Kristi Drexler

Vice President

Mirella Shannon


Katie Meehan


Jill Hepp

Membership Director

Barret Graf

Fundraising Director

Kara Martinez

Newsletter Editor

Erin McCool

Scholarship Director

Brandon Kitagawa

Community Grants Director

Leroy Almendarez

Field Liaison

Jeffrey Cleveland

General Director

Robin Mardeusz


Sarah Reynolds


Bob Link




Interested in volunteering with Full Basket Belize?

We are always looking for volunteers to help with a variety of tasks that can be done from home and/or in Belize, including:

serving on one of our committees

contributing photos for our newsletter

assisting with outreach to Belizean secondary schools eligible for scholarships

writing Belize-related articles for the newsletter

conducting media outreach in Belize

If you would like to volunteer your time and energy, please contact:

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it





Full Basket Belize board of directors elections are coming up in December!




Are you ready to dedicate time and energy to help move FBB forward as a volunteer board member?

If you are interested in running for a board position in our upcoming election, please contact:

president@ fullbasketbelize.org




Letter from our President
Jo Link, RPCV Belmopan 2000-2002

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer. I am enjoying the fabulous sunny weather, warm temperatures, as well as various outdoor activities, and I hope you are, too.

In July I had the opportunity to see the 2013 Gold Cup soccer game between Belize and the USA national teams here in Portland OR. This was the first time the Belize qualified to participate for the group stage of the Gold Cup.

US Men vs Belize at the Portland Timbers' stadium!


It was heartening to see the soccer stands filled with Belizean flags and signs supporting the Belizean team. Some of the Jaguar enthusiasts had traveled from as far away as Dallas TX and Los Angeles to support their country’s home team. While the game’s final result wasn’t what they would have liked, the ardent Belizean fans appreciated what their amateur team could do against the US professional players.

Sometimes, it seems that our humble little organization is not unlike that amateur Belizean team versus the pro US team, a little David vs. a giant Goliath. After all, we work on a very restricted budget, with only volunteer help, in an effort to keep our overhead costs as low as possible. Yet the good works that we accomplish are as good, if not better, than that of the professionals. We annually sponsor thousands of dollars’ worth of scholarships to support deserving students in their pursuit of high school diplomas as well as community projects in the areas of health, education and the environment.

When you look inside this issue, you will find information on our recent activities: our latest scholarship winners, news of our recent graduates, and updates on our current community projects. We hope you enjoy our latest edition of our Full Basket Belize newsletter!


Belize fans

Belize fans cheer on the national team at the Gold Cup!


Announcing our 2013-2014 Scholarship Winners!

As I read through this year’s Full Basket Belize scholarship applications, my heart was breaking at the hard times these young people experience. All are high-achieving students who struggle every day to find the money to continue their education. As you know, high school in Belize is not free like it is in the US. There are tuition, books, fees, and uniform costs to pay every year; these average more than US$500 per student. Our scholarship program is designed to ameliorate these costs for as many deserving students as possible.

Each spring we ask each of our participating schools to nominate a maximum of five deserving students for consideration. To be eligible students must be entering forms II, III, or IV and have outstanding grade point averages. In addition, we seek students with leadership qualities as evidenced by their participation in extracurricular activities, such as sports teams, clubs, scouts, community service, or volunteering, or be working in or outside the home, and/or have family obligations.

Once again this year, the competition for our limited number of available scholarships was fierce. The scholarship committee found it very challenging to determine the final recipients because there were so many worthy applicants.

Without further ado, then, here are the new winners of our 2013-14 scholarships:





Alamina, Lilly

Ocean Academy

Caye Caulker


Jolon, Dalia

Orange Walk Technical HS

Chan Pine Ridge Village


Lewis, Curtis

Sacred Heart College

San Ignacio


Mejia, Maritza

Orange Walk Technical HS

Orange Walk


Parham, Tanisha

Sacred Heart College

San Ignacio


Talango, Claudia

San Juan Bautista

Orange Walk



Orangewalk Tech Scholarship Recipients

Orange Walk Tech scholarship recipients. (Left to right): Maritza Mejia, Allison Donis, Sulemi Roberts, and Dalia Jolon.

In addition, we granted renewal scholarships for 2013-14 to the following students:





Basto, Beatriz

San Juan Bautista

Yo Creek Village


Coyock, Andreina

Muffles College

Yo Creek Village


Donis, Allison

Orange Walk Technical HS

San Jose Nuevo Palmar Village


Guerra, Rosanna

Sacred Heart College

Benque Viejo


Guevara, Silvia

Sacred Heart College

San Ignacio


Reyes, Evelio

Ocean Academy

Caye Caulker


Roberts, Sulemi

Orange Walk Technical HS

Tower Hill Village


Villeda, Mario

Sacred Heart College

San Ignacio



Ocean Academy scholarship recipient Evelio Reyes with FBB's Kristi Drexler.


Congratulations to all of our 2013-14 scholarship winners for the upcoming academic year!

Thanks a million to our scholarship committee of Katie Meehan, Jeffrey Cleveland, Mirella Shannon, and Erin McCool for reading student applications and making some tough decisions.

Jo Link, President

If you'd like to help dozens of deserving secondary students get ahead in school and life, PLEASE DONATE TODAY.

Together, we are making a real difference in the lives of Belizean youth!


The Belize Zoo Turns 30!
Stephanie Lansing, RPCV Belize Zoo (2000-2002)

What began as Sharon Matola’s efforts at finding a home for unwanted, semi-domesticated animals from a movie shoot has become one of Belize’s main tourist attractions and a leading conservation and education center. It is also widely considered one of the best zoos in Central America and a model for humane treatment of animals.


A jaguar beats the heat in the shade of its natural habitat at the Belize Zoo.

I have fond memories of my time working at the Belize Zoo as a PCV (2000-2002). From handling the large boa constrictor for student groups, to canoeing through wetlands and caves with Belizean teachers, to petting my favorite spider monkey on my daily Zoo walks, going to work really was a case of getting to know the country’s wildlife. It was a zoo, but it never really felt like one. In fact, the main complaint from visitors coming to the Belize Zoo is that they cannot see the animals housed in their natural forested environments, as the foliage often camouflages the animals. It is a place where you will only find animals native to Belize, and their diets are carefully planned by the Zoo keepers who know each animal by name and make plates of fresh fruit, meat, nuts and eggs based on each animal’s individual preferences and needs. My Belizean counterpart and I once tried to save a poor baby chick from the kitchen area, but were told it was an essential part of the animals’ diet.

I have to admit that initially I would feel conflicted about my time there. Working with the education programs were huge highlights for me during my time in Belize: environmental career trainings for Senior High School students, weekend Environmental Teacher Study Tours, visiting schools to give environmental educational programs, and weekly summer camps. I loved the work, and I loved being around the animals, but I also had reservations about keeping animals in cages at all. Is this humane treatment? Are those big, pacing cats under stress? Yet I also knew of the individual attention given to them from the caring and knowledgeable zoo keepers, and how excited many Belizean students got upon seeing scarlet macaws and jaguars – animals they were often told about but had never seen. While the zoo operates largely on donations from foreign tourists, including substantial support from celebrities like Harrison Ford and Cyndi Lauper, the impacts were largely among the thousands of Belizean school children and teachers who came to the zoo each year on field trips. I am sure that all the Belize Zoo staff would say their largest contribution is the education of Belizeans on the beauty of their native flora and fauna and being able to share that beauty with the world through peeking in on the lives of these beautiful animals in their large enclosures, which are devoid of concrete but surrounded by their lush native natural habitat. Recognizing how important it is to have a resource like this, and the kind of impact it can have for conservation efforts countrywide, I must say that my conflicted feelings about the zoo were resolved long ago, and I hope you join with me in wishing the Belize Zoo a HAPPY 30th ANNIVERSARY with many more to come.


Belize's national animal, the tapir, is a popular sight at the Belize Zoo.


2013 Community Grants:
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





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



Full Basket Belize improves the education, health and environment of Belizean
communities through educational scholarships and community grants.


Mission Statement

Full Basket Belize improves the education, health, and environment of Belizean communities through educational scholarships and community grants.

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Proud affiliate of the NPCA