Grateful Scholarship Students
Jo Link, RPCV Belmopan 2000-2002
When I read over the application forms submitted by potential scholarship candidates, I have to keep the tissue box handy. The circumstances these children have to endure (single-parent households, poverty, family problems, hunger, unemployment, etc.) are heartbreaking. And there are so many deserving students that it is very difficult to narrow the list down to the few that we can afford to support.
For the academic year 2013-14, thanks to your support, we were able to offer new scholarships to six students and renewal scholarships to all eight eligible students. All recipients have achieved excellent grades and are active in school, family, and community activities.
Our scholarship students are immensely thankful for the support they receive through your generosity. As Evelio Reyes of Ocean Academy notes, “Even though it may be difficult, with hard work and dedication I will reach the finish line. With your support it will be easier to fulfill my dreams. I greatly appreciate your assistance.”
Adreina Coyock of Muffles College is another grateful scholarship recipient, and her words echo a theme heard many times in our scholarship applications:
"Without your generous assistance, I would not have been able to continue my education. I would have been another school dropout. I want to stay in school and get my education so that I can achieve my goal of becoming a teacher."
Mario Villeda of Sacred Heart College knows what it is like to be a dropout as he was one. Now that he is back in school, thanks to a Full Basket Belize scholarship, he says: “I really appreciate this scholarship. I dropped out of school before. After figuring out how hard life would be without an education, I now realize that this scholarship is the best thing that has happened to me. It has given me the strength to push forward and the ability to get closer to my dream of becoming a business man.”
Another Sacred Heart student, Silvia Guevara, expresses the thoughts of many scholarship beneficiaries: “Without my FBB scholarship, I would not be able to go to school. I am now able to strive for better grades and achieve goals and plans for the future.”
Orange Walk Technical High School student Suleimi Roberts concurs. She tells us:
"Without your help, I would not be in school right now because of the lack of finances. I have been performing to the best of my abilities and have earned the highest GPA in my class. My biggest dream is to become a doctor and service my beautiful country of Belize."
Rosanna Guerra of Sacred Heart states that “this scholarship has been a blessing for my family. With three students in high school, the costs of schooling are very high and the scholarship has alleviated some of my parents’ pressure to provide. It is a great incentive to know that there are people willing to help students like me, who are willing to study and work hard to build a bright future for themselves.”
In several families, family resources will not stretch far enough for all of the high school students in the family to attend. Thus, without scholarships the girls would have to drop out of school in favor of the boys. Fortunately, in many instances we are able to provide the monetary assistance and prevent these lives and minds from being wasted.
Our scholarship recipients are universally described as hardworking, dedicated, intelligent, creative, diligent, responsible, honest, determined, and respectful. It is an honor to help these deserving students overcome the odds stacked against them and achieve the education they should have. Thank you for supporting FBB and these bright young people of Belize.
To help us continue to support scholarships for high-achieving and deserving students in Belize who struggle to remain in school due to the high cost of secondary education -- PLEASE DONATE!
A Glimpse into Belize's Past and Future: An Interview with Dr. Joel Wainwright
By Katie Meehan RPCV Belize 2000-02 and Guatemala 2002-03
For most people, the geography of Belize conjures maps, facts, and how to navigate the backstreets of Belize City during rush hour. But for Dr. Joel Wainwright, Associate Professor of Geography at The Ohio State University, the study of geography is far more ambitious: the practice of “world-writing”, or unsettling the assumptions about why places like Belize are the way they are. For over 20 years, Joel has found answers to key questions in the pages of dusty historical archives, on Maya swiddens and farms, around kitchen tables in Toledo, and in the everyday struggles of Belizean activists. His award-winning book,Decolonizing Development: Colonial Power and the Maya (Wiley-Blackwell, London, 2008), offers a window into Belize’s colonial past and examines colonial legacies for people and the environment today. Recently FBB caught up with Joel to ask about his work, inspiration, and future plans in Belize.
KM: When did you first visit Belize? What drew you there, and why did you focus on Belize for your PhD research?
JW: I first travelled to Belize twenty years ago, in 1993, during my junior year of college, on the SIT semester abroad program. I wanted to study development and environment issues in two different former British colonies, and the two School for International Training (SIT) programs that made the most sense to me (and had space) were Belize and Kenya. I fell in love with Belize and applied to return after graduation on a Fulbright fellowship (1995-1996), which I was fortunate to receive. I spent my first year after college in Toledo, working alongside Julian Cho. This was during the height of the conflict with the Government over the so-called ‘Malaysian’ logging concessions and the Maya land issue more generally.
After I started graduate school at the University of Minnesota, I returned to Toledo and continued my research, which served as the basis for my Master’s thesis. I had planned to move on to work elsewhere at that point, but returned to Belize to conduct my PhD research as well.
And I keep going back. I think I’ve made twenty-five trips over the past twenty years. I’ve spent around three and a half years in Belize in all. But that measure stopped making sense a while ago, because even when I’m not actually in Belize, I’m talking with my friends there, thinking and writing about the place, and so on.
KM: In your book, you examine the ways that colonial powers (first the Spanish, then the British) tried to discipline the Maya of Southern Belize into modern, colonial citizens. In excavating Belize’s past, what surprised you the most?
JW: How little has changed. The more you study the crucial period of Belize’s colonial history – which Dr. J. O. Palacio dates to the late 19th and early 20th centuries – the more you appreciate how deeply Belize’s contemporary problems are rooted in colonial dynamics that repeat today. This is not limited to the Maya. There is no way to grasp the contemporary politics and economics of Belize without considering the colonial period. And there is no way to appreciate the many conflicts in Belizean life today without studying political economy.
KM: Given your knowledge of Belizean history and geography, what are the greatest challenges Belize faces as it moves into the 21st century?
JW: Three grave problems immediately come to mind: 1) climate change, 2) inequality, and 3) the interlinked crisis of education and employment. These are, of course, problems that we find everywhere in the world today, which only shows that they are not Belize’s ‘fault’. Climate change promises to transform Belize’s native ecosystems more radically that all the direct anthropogenic changes that humans have caused since the start of European colonization. We can already measure a few clear effects: warmer weather, obviously, especially fewer cool nights in the winter; the warming of the sea, which means more frequent and powerful hurricanes and storms; more irregular precipitation, with serious consequences for rain-fed agriculture; and so on. But these presently-measurable changes only dimly foretell the future. Across the world, the places that are most ‘at risk’ under climate change are those with two qualities: first, high likelihood of dramatic increases in mean temperature and more extreme weather; second, low capacity for adaptation. Belize ranks poorly in both respects.
Understanding Belize’s poor capacity for climate change adaptation brings us to inequality. At the time Belize achieved its formal political independence in 1981, its economic inequality was enviably low, relative to other Central American countries. Most people were materially poor, but human development (relative to Gross Domestic Product) was quite good, and the very low population density meant that most families or social networks had some access to land and natural resources (such as for hunting and fishing).
Moreover, the rich in Belize were not stupendously rich. On the contrary. Thanks to the provincialism of the elite – the personal example of George Price (his abstemiousness was famous) – and the fact that the dominant actors in the economy operated in England and the USA, the rich in Belize were not super rich. Hence the economy was relatively flat, compared to places like Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, and so on. Not surprisingly the Belizean state was relatively more democratic than its neighbors.
All this has changed rather dramatically. The neoliberal era (1970s-today) has ushered in stark increases in inequality in Belize, just as it has elsewhere. In an absolute sense, poverty has not declined much since the 1980s; in a relative sense it has worsened. Poor people today in Belize typically have access to more commodities than they used to, circa 1981, but they feel poorer, and rightly so. This is especially visceral in Belize’s two historical pockets of deprivation: the Southside of Belize City and rural Toledo. Meanwhile Belize’s rich have done very well for themselves. And they control the state, which has become less open and more autocratic over time.
Education provides a clear expression of these divisions. Frankly the system is in crisis. Belize used to pride itself on its high levels of literacy. Yet functional literacy rates have declined and, according to an important recent report conducted by the Inter-America Development Bank, Belize now ranks near the bottom of Latin America and the Caribbean on many educational indicators. The quality of many elementary schools is miserable (particularly in Toledo), and even if a student overcomes various challenges to qualify for high school, the cost often puts a high school degree – to say nothing of UB, a school with its own serious problems – beyond the reach of many families. (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers all know this, because you’re often asked to ‘sponsor’ student scholarships, such as through Full Basket Belize. As helpful as this gesture may be – I have ‘sponsored’ students myself – we should have no illusions. When it comes to providing education, considerate foreigners cannot replace the state.) But how many and what sort of jobs are available to Belizeans today without a high school education? Very few unskilled jobs are available that provide enough income to meet the rising costs of living in Belize. This problem will be only more serious in the future, when agriculture provides fewer opportunities (due to the erosion of historical trade preferences, plus climate change). Many hope that tourism will somehow save the economy, but most of the money spent in tourism goes for air travel and hotels, two sectors beyond the reach of normal Belizeans.
KM: Are you still involved in Belize today? Do you have any plans for new research?
JW: Absolutely. I have a few research projects underway at present. One examines forest change along the Dump-to-Jalacte road, which bisects northern Toledo. I’m working with the Maya Leaders Alliance and a few scientists at Ohio State to connect the dots between the paving of the road, changing Maya livelihoods and forest practices. A second project, which I hope will lead to my next book, studies the history of extractive economies in Belize.
KM: You’re on a deserted reef island. Pick one: beans & rice, or rice & beans?
JW: Stew beans and white rice!
KM: Thanks, Joel--we look forward to the next book!
Meet the New Board of Directors
Jo Link - President and Scholarships Co-Director
Jo Link is a retired math and computer science secondary school teacher from Hawaii. In 2000 she and her husband Bob joined the Peace Corps and were assigned to Belize as Information Technology Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). They spent two years in Belmopan, Belize, where Jo taught computer literacy to public school teachers and English to Spanish-speaking refugees from other Central American countries. In addition, Jo was co-editor of the PCV quarterly magazine, “Toucan Times,” and served as head of the Volunteer Advisory Council (VAC). She now lives in Portland, Oregon, with Bob and spends lots of time with their five grandchildren. She has served on the Full Basket Belize Board of Directors for the last four years as communications director, scholarship director, elections committee chair, and president.
Kristi Drexler - Vice President
Kristi Drexler served as a Peace Corps volunteer in San Ignacio, Belize, from 1997-1999 in environmental education. She assisted with field research at Las Cuevas research station (near Caracol) and helped train Conservation Officers for the Forestry Department in environmental education and co-management of protected areas. She earned a Master’s Degree at Ohio University and now instructs courses full-time with American Public University. In Las Cruces, Kristi founded the Faculty-Led International Program “FLiP” office (modeled on her Belize Field School Program) at New Mexico State University. She coordinates accredited field courses to Belize and other countries annually in the areas of wildlife science; marine ecology; primate behavior; archaeology; entomology; agriculture; film and documentary-making; animal science and wildlife veterinary science; hotel, restaurant and tourism management; international business; history; public health; and service learning.
Katie Meehan - Secretary
Katie Meehan served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize (2000-2002) and Guatemala (2002-2003), working in environmental education and rural community development. Following Peace Corps, Meehan earned her Master’s Degree in environmental management from Oxford University and her PhD in Geography from the University of Arizona. She now works as a Professor in Geography at the University of Oregon.
Mirella Shannon - Treasurer
Mirella Shannon served two years as an Information Technology Peace Corps Volunteer in Punta Gorda, Belize, from 2000-2002 where she taught in the Computer Science Department at the University of Belize. Ms. Shannon is currently the Associate Dean of the School of Media at Columbia College Chicago. Her current research focuses on finding new and innovative ways to attract women and minorities to careers in computer science by developing new ideas on the use of technology and new forms of serious gaming. She has published and presented several papers on the subject and has received two grants to further her work. She is committed to public service as evidenced by her volunteer work in Belize for the Peace Corps and Namibia for World Teach. Previously, in her 30-year career in Information Systems, Ms. Shannon was the Vice President of Institutional Operations for the New York City investment management firm Neuberger Berman, a senior executive for SEI Corporation, and the president of her own management consulting firm which she started in 1996. Mirella holds an M.A. from New York University and a B.A. from DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.
Charlotte Usher Nal - Fundraising Director
Charlotte Usher Nal is a native of Belize. Charlotte returned to Belize in 2000 with her children for a year where she worked with National Committee for Families and Children as a Project Consultant. During that time Charlotte wrote a consultancy for UNICEF on the “Social Impact of Hurricane Keith on Families and Children.” Charlotte has a Bachelor’s in Sociology from Cameron University and a Master’s Degree in Non-Profit Management from Regis University. Charlotte worked almost 12 years for Community Partnership for Child Development in the role of Family Service Assistant Manager and as the Strategic Initiative Liaison. During those years Charlotte worked closely with immigrant families, homeless families, and military families in forming partnerships in the community and with the Head Start Community. She currently works as a Child Protective Service Investigator with the Department of Social and Human Services in Bremerton, Washington, while working on her Doctorate in Human Services.
Brandon Kitagawa - Community Grants Co-Director
Brandon Kitagawa served as a Peace Corps Volunteer working on environmental education and marine conservation at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize from 1999-2001. While living in Belize, Brandon gained an appreciation for the unique potential and challenges of development in Belize. Brandon credits his time in Belize for directing him towards work that connects communities to public policy. He spent almost four years as a community organizer working with neighborhoods in Sacramento, California and currently works on environmental health/public health policy related to asthma in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has volunteered with FBB since 2005 to help coordinate FBB’s grants program and has served on the Board of Directors since 2010.
Ron Herring - Community Grants Co-Director
Ron Herring spent 18 years as a manager and executive in national manufacturing, service and retail corporations in the western U.S. From 1988 to 2005 he was a small business owner/operator and small business consultant in Portland, Oregon, where he resides. Ron participated on the Board of Directors of the Visitors and Convention Bureau of Washington County, Oregon, for seven years, serving as President in 1997-98. He has also been an active member of service clubs, supporting fundraising for international projects and assisting with local environmental projects.
Since 1988, Ron has been travelling to Belize several times a year, providing support to Green Reef in Belize and CORAL in the U.S., non-governmental organizations dedicated to the protection of the environment and conservation of barrier reefs. He has travelled extensively to all areas of Belize, with associates and personal friends throughout the country. Ron started the REEF ADVENTURES dive shop in San Pedro Town with Belizean partner and PADI Dive Instructor, Ched Cabral, in 2000. Ron and the dive shop continue to support Belizeans as well as Peace Corps volunteers and their families.
Erin McCool - Scholarships Co-Director
Sarah Reynolds - Contributions Director
Sarah Reynolds served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Punta Gorda, Belize, from 2000 to 2002. Ms. Reynolds worked as a Professor at the University of Belize – Toledo teaching courses for the University’s Natural Resource Management degree program. Ms. Reynolds also worked as a volunteer coordinator for the Belize Red Cross. Upon return from the Peace Corps, Ms. Reynolds attended law school at the University of Chicago. In 2003, she spent an additional summer in Belize City conducting legislation strategy research as a United Nations Development Program intern for Belize’s Coastal Zone Management Authority. Ms. Reynolds is currently working as a litigator at Mayer Brown in Chicago.
Jeffrey Cleveland - Newsletter and General Director
Jeffrey Cleveland served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Punta Gorda, from 1997-1999, in Small Business Development. He taught the first business programs at the University (College) of Belize’s Toledo Campus during its first two start-up years and also developed and taught Outreach Programs for the local business owners. Jeffrey extended his Close of Service (COS) date by two months so that he could watch “his kids” become the first graduating class from the Toledo Campus. Following his return to the States, Jeffrey became involved with a non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on substance abuse prevention for minors. He continues to work for this organization remotely from a mountain in North Central New Mexico where he is building a house.
David Lansing - Newsletter Co-Director
David Lansing was a Peace Corp volunteer from 2000-02 serving in Belize City, and later, Seine Bight. After Peace Corps he married Stephanie Lipe (RPCV Belize 2000-02) and enrolled in graduate school in Geography at Ohio State University, where he conducted Master’s fieldwork among Garifuna fishing communities affected by the Cayos Cochinos Marine Protected Area in Honduras. He completed his PhD at Ohio State based on 18 months of fieldwork in the Talamanca Indigenous Reserve in Costa Rica, studying the impact of carbon offset projects among Bribri and Cabécar farmers. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Geography Department at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. His time in Belize inculcated a lifelong interest in environment and development issues among indigenous peoples. It also catalyzed a career that has happily kept him doing work in Central America, but sadly, not in Belize. David would like to reverse this trend a bit and re-engage with the people and issues in Belize as a board member of Full Basket Belize.
Shannon White - Field Liaison
Shannon White served as a Business and Organizational Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Bermudian Landing, Belize, from 2010 to 2012 with the Community Baboon Sanctuary. Here she helped to implement sustainable community development projects in the Belize River Valley and co-founded an organization for at-risk youth in Burrell Boom. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, she worked as a Legislative Analyst for the Commonwealth of Virginia and is currently working in Washington, DC, for an association of human service organizations that helps nonprofit organizations reduce overhead expenses and redirect funding to mission-focused programs.
Barret Graf - General Director
Congratulations to our new board!
Many thanks to outgoing board members Leroy Almendarez, Jill Hepp and Kara Martinez for your contributions and years of service to Full Basket Belize!
Where does your money go?
We at Full Basket Belize are proud of how we manage our money. We know that our contributors expect us to use our funds wisely. We are committed to fulfilling that trust by maximizing the funds dedicated to our programs. Our wonderful volunteers handle day-to-day operations, enabling us to keep our operating expenses to a bare minimum. Our overhead expenses such as website cost, PO Box rental, bank fees, National Peace Corps Association membership, and donor database not absorbed by generous board members were all covered by an outside source in 2013. Therefore, we can honestly say that fully 100% of every dollar we raised in 2013 supported our 2013 programs.
In the 12-month period between December 1, 2012, and December 1, 2013, we recorded US$10,300 in donations. We spent US$7,000 on scholarships and US$3,500 for project grants, slightly over our income. Our goal in the future is to increase donations so that we can increase the number of scholarships and project grants we can provide to deserving folks in Belize.
Please help us reach this goal by donating generously this year. TONKS!