Return to Belize, September 2018

WhatsApp in Belize?  (Just a suggestion)

That is actually a very convenient way to reach us in Belize, or anyone you like almost anywhere.  WhatsApp is one of several Voice Over Internet (VOIN) apps (applications) that one can use to make phone, or phone-with-picture calls.  We are not here to boost one or the other but we both have WhatsApp, Viber, Zoom and Skype loaded to our cell phones and computers.  (Rosalie, however, lost the cellphone that WhatsApp and Viber were on and discovered only after getting back to Belize that although the icons are on her new phone, she has to be back in the North to re-install them.  So, if you want to talk to Rosalie, call her on Adrian’s phone, or set up a Zoom or Skype call.)  You can call us and speak free or at very low cost, as long as caller and recipient are both in a Wi-Fi hotspot, or a place where we have internet access.  For more info, do a Google search and then check out their web-sites.

Rosalie and I returned to Belize earlier than we had originally planned.  It just seemed better to get here before the school year was very advanced.  We spent a lot of time traveling this summer, so much so that our stays in Belize now feel like home.  We saw Adrian’s family in Winnipeg and on Vancouver Island, and then caught up with some of Rosalie’s in Jersey Mills, PA. And of course, we saw family and Friends in Baltimore.  Adrian and Oscar took the story of Belize City Friends Center to New York Yearly Meeting Annual Session at Silver Bay, NY, stopped to pick up Rosalie for a lovely meeting at Stony Run Friends in Baltimore, and then visited with Baltimore Yearly Meeting Friends at Hood College, in Frederick MD.  We were greeted warmly everywhere and would like to thank Baltimore YM for their invitation and for the attendance bursary, Stony Run for paying for Oscar Mmbali to come to the USA, and New York YM for their invitation and help in attending.  Thank you all!  If you would like to have visitors from our program either to your Meeting or Church, or to your YM, please message us.  We would love to personalize the news of Belize City Friends Center.

My (Adrian) big task this semester is to use the findings from my work last spring on the condition of our building to develop recommendations for a master plan for our site here at 3428 Central American Blvd.  The building’s previous use was as a warehouse for a truck parts business.  This did not instantly transform itself into a child- or teacher-friendly environment.  Volunteers have transformed three levels of ‘warehouse’ into three classrooms, an all-purpose room we hope will become a library and study hall, an apartment now used by our Pastor, and a dormitory built to accommodate visiting volunteers.  The second of our two-part building has a large room on the main floor, with offices for the school and a small canteen to distribute snacks and meals.  The second floor is a 4-bedroom apartment that houses (mostly) visitors and us.  A challenge for me is to work out with the staff and school board how to best configure both buildings to enable us to have a well-functioning school – our first priority, and have occasional space for visitors and teams of volunteers.  Part of this task is to account for our local climatic and geographical concerns.  Belize City is located on the shore of the Caribbean Sea, only 1 to 2 feet above sea level.  In the event of hurricanes or tsunamis, we can anticipate a tidal surge of 4-5 feet, which means any fixtures on the ground floor have to be water and mud resistant or portable.  Our structures are reasonably sound, but one of our roofs is not yet hurricane resistant, and our window openings are not.  We are located at a very busy intersection by the Port of Belize, so controlling noise and dust and odors from outside are also concerns.  More on Site Development as we progress!

Rosalie’s work  is focused on teaching and learning in the classrooms, ways to enhance teaching and the curriculum that will enhance learning and strengthen students’ vision of themselves as learners.  Our school day runs from 8:30 am to 3 pm.  The first class is altogether, students gather with our Pastor, Oscar Mmbali, for a class in Quaker faith and practice.  On Fridays this takes the form of Quaker worship for the whole school.  Next, students move into two groups, one to work on very basic English language skills, the other to their Primary level  Math and Science or English and History (depending on the day).  In the afternoon, all the students attend class according to their ability.  In addition to these classes for students preparing to write the Primary School Examination, we offer tutoring for adult learners studying for the Belizean equivalent of a GED.  Our teachers and Head of School are all Belizean with varying degrees of academic certification.   We have occasional visitors who offer supplementary courses in various areas, and we are now working with the Belize Department of Youth Services to offer programs in art, music, computer use and swimming.  We hope these will start soon.

Another part of our purpose here is to find additional vectors of support for Belize Friends School, and for the Belize City Friends Center which houses the school.  In June, we responded to a request for proposals from the US Embassy in Belize seeking programs to strengthen an understanding of a democratic civil society in Belize.  Our approach to that was titled “Southside Youth as Leaders in Belizean Democracy:  Strengthen Citizen Security through Economic and Social Opportunity”.  Apparently, we did not see eye to eye with their criteria – we got a polite rejection letter.  However, we were not surprised; Rosalie and Oscar had observed an over-capacity crowd at the Embassy for their info session.  There was a lot of competition.  But our exercise helped us to develop our thoughts and learn about the resources as well as the challenges.  Good will come of that!  We have just answered another grant competition from UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, and have several smaller requests to Quaker organizations underway.  A new source of support arrived today – the Ambassador of China (Taiwan) arrived with a vehicle full of sports-ware and clothing gifts, and school supplies.  Earlier in the summer they had provided a large gift of rice which we have distributed to families needing food.  The Embassy assures us that we may expect continuing support from them.

In our travels this summer we distributed “Wish lists” of project ideas we would like to carry out.  For a copy please e-mail us and perhaps we can collaborate in this work!


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