Today I met some new friends at the Chan Chen school. Amelia, her daughter, and her grandson helped me understand some of the challenges. Amelia and her daughter are going to a health training on Monday to learn how to take blood pressures and heart rates. Both were really excited to bring this knowledge back to the village. Amelia is a community health worker and is paid a minimal stipend. Her daughter is also excited to learn and contribute where she can.
We went to the school today to meet with the assistant principal and the parent teacher organization. Dr. Breitkreuz presented our projects and had each group present a short explanation for the group. Our groups are really excited to run the Easter camp on Monday.
After seeing the garden space, I think we all felt overwhelmed. There is so much work to be done in just a few short days. Our resources are limited and we need to accomplish so much in a very short period of time.
While others continued to discuss the garden, I spoke again with Amelia and her daughter. They were so passionate when discussing the needs of the village. I asked specifically about special needs students. Chan Chen is not equipped to serve the needs of these students. Amelia described a young girl who lives just across the road who is unable to go to school. They live too far away from other school that could serve her needs. She is at home without education. Her mother carries her on her back as they do not have a wheelchair. The girl is growing and it is getting more difficult for her mother to move her. I hope that I can somehow find a way to meet this need.
Dr. Hale asked us to journal yesterday regarding our first impressions of Corozal. I was so impressed by the social nature of the families. We passed many small homes prior to our arrival. It was shortly before dinnertime. Families were gathered in yards, and they were just enjoying each other. I did not see anyone on a cell phone or laptop. I loved seeing happy families.
Waking up in Belize was one of the most surreal experiences for me this morning. The ocean is absolutely gorgeous, the air is abundant with moisture, and today we would have the pleasure of visiting the schools we would be working in for the next 4 days.
As we stepped off our van at the Libertad School I was filled with pure excitement. We were greeted by the principal of the school and two other teachers. They were extremely happy to see us and greeted us with open arms. The schools in Belize are not too different than what we would see in the US. They are mainly one long, 2-story hallway made of concrete, which also doubles as a hurricane shelter. The classrooms are filled with desks, chalkboards, and plenty of posters on the walls. I was very surprised to hear that Libertad and Chan Chen were quite different in quality, but one school is government funded while the other is supported by a church. I was also surprised to find out that the children at Libertad mainly spoke English in the homes and that Spanish is commonly taught at school. My heart sank a little bit, since I have been dying to use some of the Spanish that I know. After looking at all the classrooms and sharing our project ideas with the principal, we were shown the rest of the school as well as the garden area. Libertad also had a small library filled with various books, but the books are only for use in the library at allotted reading periods, not for check out to take to their homes.Although both of our countries have all the elements that make up a classroom, it was amazing to see all of the differences. This little taste of what I saw in the Belize schools gave me the biggest hunger to start getting to know all of the children at Easter Camp.
Belize is such a beautiful country, the sweet smell of the ocean air, the tight bonds of the local community yet they are so welcoming to us. Twenty seven Boise State students arrive here, after 3 days of unpredicted travel to be welcomed with open arms but strangers that have quickly become friends. From Charlie the Inn keeper to Lulu our Youth for America tour guide, I have no doubt the work here we are doing will be carried on and the the unity will continue to be abundant.
Expect the unexpected, you think with that mindset you would be prepared for anything...everything! That is not the case for us, but I would have to say the one thing I did not expect was to make 27 amazing friends. The bonds what we have created have turned this chaos into a blessing. Today we had the opportunity to see the school we are going to be working at and meet the Administration and Parents. What a humbling experience, I heard something from a fellow student that I think is worth remembering "Every American student needs to see this and witness the joy and privilege these students view education as". It's so true, to see the primitive establishment they go to everyday with joy in their hearts makes you realize how lucky as Americans we are. I will be teaching a Literacy program at the school for 3 different grade levels, I am very excited but also a bit worried with learning the little English they really speak. Guess I better polish up on my Spanish a little!
|(From left) Arlene, Kelsey and Kerri enjoy fresh papaya juice!|