The Questionnaire

Here is what I’ve come up with.  The actual questionnaire is printed front-to-back on one sheet of paper. I expect that I will be the person filling it out while having a conversation.

Friends in Belize Questionnaire

  1. Name of person interviewed:
  2. Name of organization represented:
  3. Have you heard of the Belize Friends (Boys) school before?
  4. If the answer to #3 is yes. What have you heard about the school? (What kind of reputation does it have in the community?)
  5. Do you think there is a need for this kind of school? Does it needs to expand? Are there ways that the school can change that would be helpful?
  6. Have you ever heard of the Society of Friends (Quakers)? If so what do you know about them?
  7. (Take some time to explain Quakers, if necessary. Explain that Friends United meeting is a worldwide Christian organization with equal emphases on the the inner testimony of the Spirit of the Living Christ (the Inner Light) and the outward mission of living out the gospel message.  Mention the testimonies of peace, equality and integrity. Continue that discussion if it seems helpful.) Do you think there is a place for a Quaker Church in Belize? In Belize City?
  8. What do you consider to be the most serious issue(s) in Belize, Belize City, south side of Belize City?
  9. What efforts are currently underway to address those issues?
  10. Are you involved in any of those efforts? In what way?
  11. What do you think could be done?
  12. Would you be interested in participating in a consultation about what might be done address the issues on the south side of Belize City?
  13. (If the person seems particularly appropriate, especially sympathetic and willing to be deeply involved. This question may be reserved for a later conversation.) Would you be interested in being part of a small group of Belizeans who would work with a small group of Americans to develop a plan for Quakers in Belize?

Suggestions welcome.

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Christmas Health Kits

A few years ago, Whittier Friends asked if there was something special they could do for Friends School and the Christmas Health Kits were born.  The kits have consisted of a towel, a washcloth, a bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, and so on. The kits have not been identical from year to year. One year a second church/meeting sent some money and we were able to go to a local store and buy a small toy for each student.

O couple of other churches/meetings have been involved over the past few years but last year there were no health kits at all.  If your meeting would like to take this on as a project, please email me at daleggraves@gmail.com.

We have a celebration day on the last day before Christmas vacation. It includes a meal that is a little more special than the government meals and at the end of the day we give each student their gift.

(Side note: The Christmas meal is paid for by the USFWI feeding progarm and yes, I know that the word “their” in this context is bad grammar, but I really don’t like the use of “his/her.”)

I will gently remind you all that most of our children are very poor and some of them will not get any other Christmas gift.  This kit is a very big deal.

Let me know, ok?

Reflection and Adjustment

Can you take your thoughts back a month? I discovered this morning that I had written this article a month ago and had never published it. I thought you might enjoy it.

We were to have had the annual Children’s Rally this morning but it rained heavily overnight and the prediction for this morning is an 80% chance of thundershowers. The rally has been “postponed.”  Candi thinks it will never happen.  At any rate, we had already notified parents of a half-day of school; the students will go home at noon.  We will use the afternoon to do a bit of assessment.

We have already discovered that our students are behind where we usually are at the beginning of the year, so just now Candi was putting away the math books and getting out some books that are not as advanced.

You may already be aware that we separate our students into two classes, a review class and a prep class. The review class students realize that they are expected to spend two years with us while the prep students are .expecting one year. Candi started the prep students with grade 6 books and the review students with grade 5.  We just now made adjusted both classes back one year. Remember that we want our prep students working at a grade 8 level by the end of the year.We will be starting with addition and subtraction of whole numbers.

Right now we have 4 review students and 13 prep students.  We have discovered that Paul does not even know his letters and Harrison is not much better off.  That will take a lot of extra effort from our teachers and from them.  I asked if there was any way to know if they were just behind or if they had learning problems.  Candi said we can get them tested but that it may take as much as a year to get the results back.  So we will see what we can do.

A story:

It may be helpful for you to know that social promotion is an official policy of the ministry of education here in Belize.  If a student gets behind he/she will be promoted anyway.  Soon they may be far behind and then the teacher sets them in the back of the class and ignores them.  If the student is no trouble they just get further and further behind.  If they are trouble, the teacher will give them a very hard time and before long the student just quits attending.  Before you react against those teachers too strongly, be advised that class sizes of 40 are not unusual and 35+ is the norm.  There is, after all, a limit to what one teacher can do.

During the discussion this morning, Candi said that a former student, Vanessa, came to us after having completed 6th form.  She did not even know how to hold her pencil to write, let alone know her letters.  But she was willing to work very hard and she is now attending high school.  Yes, that’s what we are here for.

The Garden

When Ms Darcel and I took some students to World Food Day, each student who went through the tent of the Ag. department got to choose a tomato, or pepper or some other plant to take home and plant. The teacher of the class also got a box of plants.

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Paul, Tyrese, and I making ‘constructive suggestions’ to Damion

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Tryese running the weed whacker

We came home with 4 tomatoes, 4 cabbage, 2 lettuce, 4 peppers, and some cilantro seeds and carrot seeds.

After some conversation, Ms Candi and I decided that it was going to be expensive to repair the carpet ball game.  It needed new carpet, the boards were no longer completely level, and we would have to replace the balls because they had been mistreated.  So we decided that it could become a raised garden.

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Dirt bags. Real honest to goodness dirt bags.

The soil in Belize city is not exactly conducive to growing wonderful gardens, but we found a man who imports black soil. Mr Sam and I found him, loaded up 10 sacks of soil and returned to school.  By the time we returned, Ms Candi had the students cleaning up the long narrow area east of the school.

We would need to get 10 heavy bags of soil over the fence and into the garden. Whoa. I have never seen students fight over who gets to help. Literally fight. I will admit that I quickly tired of that and took over the process.

The soil was very wet, so after it was placed in the garden we put the students to work cleaning out the small ditch that runs in front of the school.  More fights.  Crazy.garden-2garden-4

I returned on Saturday to put the plants in the garden.  It is the rainy season and the soil was still wet but they needed to be planted, so I ‘mudded them in.’

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I just checked, we still have 4 tomatoes, 4 cabbage, 3 peppers and 1 lettuce.  Attrition? 1 pepper, 1 lettuce.  The tomatoes are turning the darker green that happens when they are transferred from the greenhouse to the outdoors. It will be fun to watch our garden grow.

 

This Is Where You Come In

Last week I kept my appointment with Mr Roosevlet Papaloute, the president of the Belize Council of Churches. It was an interesting conversation. One part of it really stuck out for me.

After we had talked about the Council of Churches, I was talking about trying to discover if there was a place for Friends in Belize and what that might look like.  He asked me if I had a questionaire.  I do not, but after some reflection, I think it is a really good idea. If I had a set of questions to guide my conversation it would help the conversation along and also help me stay organized.

This is where you come in.  What questions would you put on the questionnaire? If you were interviewing a person in Belize city, what questions might you ask to find out if there is a place for Friends in Belize (and, if so, what it might look like)?  I have some questions in mind, but I’m not going to share them yet, because I do not want to influence your response.  Please phrase your questions as though you were interviewing a Belizean.

I hope you can enjoy responding. I am going to post this to facebook. You may make your suggestions by commenting on this blog or by commenting on facebook.

The beggers

I don’t know what to do with the beggers.

I am fortunate that my apartment is within about 4 blocks of 2 good groceries, 2 or 3 convenience stores, 2 hardware stores, multiple clothing outlets, and a good office supply place.  The school is only about a mile. I walk unless I need the truck for some special purpose.

If I decide to walk to Ace Hardware, I will pass beggers. Some days one or two, some days as many as 6 or 8.

“Sir.  Sir.”

Especially if I make eye contact, it starts out with, “Sir. Sir.” If I make no response or if I continue the eye contact there will be a request for money, “A dolla to buy some wata, sir?” I usually just shake my head and keep walking. I have only given twice, once to a man who sits in a wheel chair in the same place every day by Brodies grocery store.

I will admit to two visceral responses. One is a little bit of anger when I realize that I was targeted because I’m white.  The begger has not called to any Belizeans, but he saw me coming a mile away. The other is a prick of my conscience when I hear a voice saying, “If you have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it to me.”

Snippets IV

You know those lovely looking palm trees? Well they have thorns, nasty thorns.  At least the one by the school does. I was helping the boys clean out the ditch and accidentally put my hand down on an old palm branch and got 4 pricks in the back of my right middle finger. It took three days for the pain and swelling to go away.

I’m thinking that the people who waved the palm branches when Jesus rode into Jerusalem must have had a different kind of palm tree.

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We have a nice variety of biting insects here in Belize.  Most notorious, for me, are mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and sand fleas.  The little critters all manage to get in my apartment even though I have screens on the windows and the door. I even spray the house every few days.

Nevertheless, I get bitten.  And after I have been bitten 2 or 3 times I start imagining bites that aren’t even there. Does anyone else have that experience?

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Imagine a man on a bicycle with two 5 gallon buckets, one hanging from each side of the handlebar, calling out in a loud barker-like voice, “Sea-weed. Ice cold sea-weed.”

Really?  I must try some.  Ms. Darcel says it’s good.

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I mentioned this one on facebook, but some of you are not facebook friends so I’ll repeat it here.  I went with some students to the World Food Day presentation at ITVET, a local technical college, and a lady was selling oatmeal cashew cookies.  I bought one and really liked it.  I asked her for the recipe.

She smiled and said that I couldn’t have it. I was surprised because in the states, when I ask for a recipe, most cooks are pleased to share.  But I guess it’s different here because if you make your living selling your wares, your recipe really would be a trade secret.

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I bought a double carton of toner cartridges last month because we were getting ‘low toner’ warnings from the school printer.  Last week the toner ran out and I replaced it with one of the new cartridges. My computer was still giving the low toner warning, which I assumed was simply a miscommunication, but after about 30 copies, sure enough, we were getting streaky prints.  So I took out the cartridge, shook it, and put it back, thinking maybe the toner was just clumped. Nope. Empty.

I replaced it with the other cartridge and everything is working fine.

Of course, I took the cartridge back to the place where I bought it. And, of course, they wouldn’t replace it because there is no way to tell if a cartridge arrived empty in the first place or if someone used it up and then tried to get a free replacement.  I understand that. But that’s a really expensive un-correctable error.  The school doesn’t have $100 US to just throw away.  Grumble, grumble.