Two weeks in Belize City

We have been in Belize City for two weeks.  We’ve been made very welcome, and we’ve had opportunity to explore the situation.  We are glad to be here!

Friends United Meeting looked for a long time for the right building to purchase so that they could follow their clear leading to work with children in south Belize City.  It was a difficult quest because this part of the city does not have many buildings large enough for a growing school and all the activities a Friends Centre might want to host.  They eventually settled on what they saw as their only option, a 2-building complex at the end of Central American Boulevard right by the port.  The port, the main seaport in Belize, is a very busy place, so there is much loud truck noise all day long and a tremendous amount of dust kicked up by the traffic (and blown by the otherwise lovely ocean breezes).  In spite of these two features (the noise and the dust), everyone is glad to be located on the southside of the city because here is where the people we want to serve are living.

Yesterday, the whole school attended a celebration of “Resilient Youth” hosted by the Community Rehabilitation Department of the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation.  Belize Friends School received a Partnership Award, as did one other school, one man, and a community policing unit.  63 young people from across the country received a Right Path Award, 30 received a Milestone Award, and 6 received a Resiliency Spotlight Award.  It was quite an inspiring occasion, with sharing of the stories of the 99 young people, what they have overcome and where they are now.  There was excellent entertainment interspersed among the awards (songs, dance, rap, drama), all original creations of the performers, I think, and much enjoyed by the students!

My key role here is expected to be mentoring the teachers, offering support to them in both curriculum matters and teaching methods.  At this time of the year, there is a lot of focus on preparing those students who are ready for their Primary School Certificate exams, encouraging studying for the exams and reviewing a variety of problems covering the national syllabus.  I’m also working with others to put an organizational hat on activities that might serve to make south Belize City a better place for children to grow up: Alternatives to Violence Project; youth leadership training; youth activities in the arts and sciences, and in appreciating the wonders of their small country; a project to improve the quality and outcomes of interactions between teenagers and police.  We hope to fit these all together into a cohesive whole and then apply for grant funding to support the work.  We are very early in that process, so we’ll see.

Adrian is actively engaged with Oscar Mmbali (the Centre’s Friends pastor, from Kenya) in supporting the Youth Leadership group and working with a coalition of organizations under an initiative called the Community Safety Forum.  Adrian is close to completing an analysis of the Friends Centre buildings, listing the needs and prioritizing them.  Since the purchase of the buildings, much renovation has been done mostly by FUM volunteers from the States under the leadership of one dedicated man, Dale Graves, who has now gone home to Indiana due to serious illness.  Dale agrees with Adrian’s analysis. To follow up on remaining issues, we hope to be able to employ local workers.  Adrian has also shared his latent coaching talents.  The school takes part in a sports league of independent schools, and because of weather, two quarterly tournaments have been postponed.  They are now hoping to have a tournament every two weeks to get them all in by the end of term.  On Monday we started our volleyball practices, and Wednesday the school travelled to the capital, Belmopan, to play against 5 other schools.  Disappointingly, we did not win a set, but our last one was the closest and most entertaining of the day for everyone.  We left with heads held high.  Staff later told us the day was a major improvement over the last tournament.

Now I know you are all imagining us lounging on beautiful Belize beaches or snorkeling over the beautiful Central American reef, and we intend to do both!  But so far, we are so intrigued with the school and Belize Friends Centre that we have not taken time to do that.  Certainly we will before too much longer.  This is a beautiful country and the marine life off its shores is magnificent.  To ignore it would be a sin, and we are trying to be good!

All of you receiving this have supported us in our leading to come to work at the Belize Friends Centre.  Some helped us reach clearness on our decision, some supported us financially, some (most!) have given us continuing friendship, some did some heavy lifting(!), some have helped us deal with things we forgot to bring.  We thank you, every one, and we send you love and Light as you follow your own calling wherever you are.


New volunteers in Belize!

Adrian and RosalieWe at FUM are very pleased to announce that Adrian Bishop and Rosalie Dance, of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, will be traveling as Living Letters to the Belize Friends Center! Adrian and Rosalie first visited the Belize Friends School in 2008, while living on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Adrian says, “We were completely entranced by the school, and their mission of giving students who had failed the national exams an opportunity to re-enter the educational system.”

Adrian and Rosalie attended last summer’s FUM Triennial in Wichita, where they met Dale Graves, Oscar Mmbali, and Candi Young. In Wichita, they heard about the need for Friends to invest in building a beloved community in Belize. Adrian’s background is in community organization and leadership development, and Rosalie is a retired math educator and a mentor of math teachers; together, they realized that they were equipped to make a powerful impact.

Adrian and Rosalie continue to feel called to their current work in Baltimore, also, so they are not making a full-time commitment to living in Belize. Rather, they are generously volunteering their time toward community coordination, supporting staff and curriculum development, and fundraising through short-term visits to Belize and long-distance work from Baltimore. They will begin a two-month term of service on April 15, 2018, and will discern the dates for future 2-3 month stays, hopefully 2-3 times per year. Please hold Adrian and Rosalie in the Light as they take on this new work! One of their responsibilities will be to revive this blog, so stay tuned!!

—Eden Grace, Global Ministries Director

PS. Are you interested in working in Belize, or know someone who might be? We’re still searching for a Director.