FDS Iowa work team

Mike Moyer put out the word in Iowa through the Friends Disaster Service that they were sponsoring a team to come to Belize to help with the renovation of the Center. He and I communicated back and forth for a couple of months and then he notified me that there would be 12 of them. Wow.

Here we are standing behind the new Friends Center sign on the last morning. Left to right: Dale Graves, Principal Candi Young, Susan Pfeifer, Judy Davis, Gene McCracken, Josh Wolfe, Rich Humphrey, Connie Humphrey, Nancy Stevens, Jenny Johannes, Jeff Johannes, Pastor Oscar Mmbali, Mike Moyer, Deb Moyer, David Wolfe

Jeff and Jenny arrived early and spent a couple of days in San Pedro to celebrate their anniversary, David and Josh Wolfe arrived on the 9th and then we picked up Jeff and Jenny from the water taxi. (I was late–sorry)
The next morning we got word that the rest of the group were “still in DesMoines.” Their plane had mechanical issues. They were given the option to come back the next day or go ahead and fly to Houston and stay overnight.

A photo to show what a miserable time they were having because the plane was delayed.

We picked them up the next day. We took some time to eat at the Friendship restaurant and take a tour of the town.

The next morning we got to work. The next few days are kind of jumbled together so here are some photos of the work we did: grout the tile, repair wallboard, do drywall finishing, install ceiling fans and lights, install a hot water heater, hook up hot water, assemble beds, and paint. And I’m sure that I’m missing some.

We had purchased mattresses but the poor team had to put them on the floor for a couple of days until we could get to the Mennonite shops on Friday. After that we had real beds.  In the meantime we tried to get three bedrooms complete enough to put the beds in. From Friday on, the team was able to sleep in real beds.  All the couples got individual bedrooms and the ‘singles’ divided up the dormitory.

We have a hard and fast rule that each team that stays for a week or longer takes a “play day.” We decided to split that up and take two half-days. On Sunday after worship we went to Altun Ha, the closest Mayan ruin site.  On Tuesday we took the 1:30 water taxi to Caye Caulker and played until we had to catch the last ferry back.

If you get a chance to swim in the Caribbean sea, you swim in the Caribbean sea, I don’t care how cold it is.

In no particular order, here are some other highlights.

We had a great couple of cooks.

We attended Friday worship with the students.

We went to A&R to purchase dishes etc for the new kitchen.

We got lunch from Yoli’s Kitchen because anybody whose anybody gets lunch at Yoli’s kitchen.

After Ms Deb found out that the adult class had two ESL students she found her own way to have a great time.

On Sunday, the Barbers joined Friends for worship.

And three other photos just because they are fun and I wanted you to see them.

Helen and I goofing off while she demonstrates the morning snack that USFWI provides the students.

teenagers checking their cell phones

This was a wonderful group. I was not feeling well and it was all I could do to keep them in supplies. I just let them know what we were trying to accomplish and they went after it.  God bless them all!



LeGrand, Iowa Friends

by Dale Graves

Shortly after noon on Friday, November 3, Alan Mullikan, Gary Bryant, and Travis Vaughn arrived from LeGrand Friends in Iowa. I picked them up at the airport and we ate some lunch on the way into town. We took a little tour of the city and then got them settled into their room. They had flown out of Omaha to save money but that meant that they had been traveling by car and plane since about midnight so they took about an hour for some rest.

LeGrand team (9 of 23)On that first evening we removed a wall that had been added on the front bedroom. The two tiny bedrooms then became one nice sized room. Sorry about the fuzziness of this photo but it was taken after dark with my phone.

Our task for this team was to put down tile in the main room and in this bedroom. In order to do that we had to lay plycem (cement board that comes in 4×8 sheets) first.



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The adults visited during the Sunday School hour while the children had class.

The forecast was for decent weather on Saturday and Sunday with rain coming in on Monday so I decided that we needed to take our play time early in the visit. On Saturday afternoon we visited Caye Caulker and then on Sunday after Meeting for Worship and Sunday School we visited Alun Ha, a Mayan ruin that is only an hour’s drive from the city.

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This view is taken from the top of one of the temples at Altun Ha looking toward the temple of the Masonry Altars, sometimes called the temple of the Sun God.

On Monday we began in earnest. And on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we completed the laying of the plycem and the tile. There wasn’t much relaxation except that we did have time in the evening to visit some local restaurants.

LeGrand team (1 of 1)Gary mixed the mud, Travis spread it on the floor, Alan and I cut and laid tiles (Alan mostly). Gary also managed to do drywall repair and paint one small bedroom.




We completed that work late Wednesday, including cutting off the bottom of the exterior doors so they would fit over the new tile and re-installing them.LeGrand team (20 of 23)

Then we went ‘off script.’ I asked the guys for their ideas about creating a Christmas tree to put on the roof. The base of an old CB antenna remains on the roof and when Mike Cain removed the old broken CB antenna, we kept the parts.LeGrand team (21 of 23)

So we played. I hope that the Christmas tree will bring some more attention to the Center–and I just like Christmas and Christmas trees.






I completed the assembly of the tree, installed an outlet on the roof, ran a switch wire so the outlet can be turned on by a switch near the office on the ground floor and tested it out.

LeGrand team (23 of 23)

I’m headed to the states on Monday. Ms Candi will turn it back on when it reaches the appropriate date.

Thanks a ton to the ‘guys from LeGrand’. They were fun to work with and we got a good bit accomplished.

Meeting With the Police Commissioner

Meeting the Police Commissioner over Community Safety on the Southside

by Oscar Mmbali

As Quakers, we believe in conversations, everyone speaks. Now, we are not here to tell you what you should do but to talk about how we can work together…” (Dale Graves)

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Police Commissioner Whyle and Mr. Cowo, Head of Criminal Investigations Branch

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Colonel Lovell Speaks while Commissioner Whyle takes notes

A couple of weeks ago, the Community Safety Forum decided to reach out to the Police Commissioner to discuss how we can work together to improve community safety on the Southside of Belize City. This was a culmination of the first phase of Community Safety Forums that were held at Belize City Friends Center and at the Anglican Cathedral in Belize City.

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Dale Graves talks about Quakers and the goal of the meeting with the Police Commissioner

Last week, we received an invitation to meet Police Commissioner, Allan Whyle at the Police Department in Belize City. The meeting was to be held on Wednesday 1st of November 2017 but was cancelled at the eleventh hour and rescheduled on Thursday 2nd of November 2017. On Thursday afternoon, representatives of the Community Safety Forum gathered at Raccoon Police Department to discuss with the police commissioner, the issues raised in the letter that had been sent to him.

In the meeting were the Police Commissioner, Colonel George Lovell from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs and Head of Criminal Investigation Branch Mr. Cowo. Discussions held included sharing the background of the Community Safety Forums, discussing the details of the letter sent to the Police commissioner, hearing from the Police commissioner, and Colonel Lovell about their experiences working on security related issues in Belize City.

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Cynthia Pits and Miriam DeShield participate in the discussion.


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Assistant Commissioner of Police Dezerie Magdeleno talks about the concerns of the police towards people in detention.

Given time constrains and a long list of issues that had been raised, the meeting resolved to begin a collaboration between the Police Department and Community Organizations over community safety issues. The meeting identified, educating the public on interaction between the police and the community as the priority agenda. Collaboration on this issue marks the start of building partnerships between the Police Department, community organizations and the community around community safety initiatives.

The details of the priority agenda- to educate the public over interaction between the community and the police for example, the content, strategies, activities and mutual interests around these issues will be discussed soon. The Police Commissioner assigned Inspector Carcamo as the liaison between the Community Safety Forum and the Police Department. Inspector Carcamo will liaise with Candy Young, Principal of Belize Friends School regarding communications from the Police department. Candi and Inspector Carcamo will be coordinating communications between the Police department and Community Safety Forums. We are looking forward to host future Community Safety Forums that will focus on implementing this agenda and discussing other related matters.

While we were not able to discuss every detail to conclusion, there was a sense of mutual willingness to work together. This collaboration between the police and community organizations opens an opportunity to explore together issues related to community safety as well as other areas where we can work together towards community transformation. There is a genuine call to work together with other organizations, the Police and other government agencies to improve community safety and address issues that tear apart the social fabric of the society upon which community safety is built. Belize City Friends center has become that place in the community from which hope and transformation will spring forth.

World Quaker Day

by Dale Graves

Last Sunday was world Quaker Day but here in Belize we don’t mind being a little late to things so we celebrated it today. I did not take any photos of morning worship.

We have begun an inter-generational Sunday (First Day) School. Miriam Loh, on the right, led the class in an art activity centered on Psalm 119:89,90

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Aaron and Michelle Thornburg from 1st Friends, Indianapolis, and their children are here this week. Here Michelle shows off her artwork.

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Mike and Emmanuel walk to Sunday School.  If I have my information correct, they walk well over a mile.  I know it’s not through snow, uphill both ways, but I’m still impressed.

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From left to right, Noemi, Miriam, Emmanuel, Mike

Afterwards we hung the artwork “on the line.”

Following the school hour we had a pitch-in dinner.  As we were eating we noticed that Omar was preaching to his small congregation. I’m not sure he has their full attention.

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What fun.

Oscar Will Be Contributing

by Dale Graves

This is a notice.  I have given Oscar Mmbali “author” rights to this blog site.

That means that Oscar will also be contributing articles to fuminbelize.org. We will each begin our postings by stating either “by Dale Graves” or “by Oscar Mmbali” so that you can understand the viewpoint of the article.

I hope this will help keep information coming to you and that you will get an additional perspective on the work here in Belize.

Time to Plant a Garden

On the first day of school, a couple weeks ago, Ms Candi asked me to put aside the work on the building and to introduce myself to the students. During that introduction I promised them that we would plant a garden.

Wednesday morning, before catching the plane to Indiana, it was time.  I had saved the paint buckets. First we had to drill holes in the bottom to make sure that excess water could exit the pot.

Then we cut off the tops of the two 5-gallon buckets so they would not be quite so large.

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We had purchased some top soil but in Belize top soil is very ‘gummy’ and so we mixed it with sand.  Then we placed some stone in the bottom of the bucket and filled the remainder with the sand/soil mix.

Each student got to choose what seeds to plant in their bucket.  They wrote their name on their bucket and the type of seed that they planted.

I read the information from the packet about how deep to plant that particular seed and tried to help them understand that a quarter inch really isn’t very deep.

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We watered and carried our ‘prizes’ up to the roof.  I had each of them put their name on the white board with the name of the seed in their bucket.

Then I instrgarden (2 of 17)ucted them to water their plants any time that there is a two-day stretch without rain. They are also supposed to check each day to see when their plants germinate and write that date on the whiteboard next to their name.


This’ll be fun — and educational.

Rabble Rousing Quakers

Oh those rabble rousing Quakers.

On Sunday, before meeting for worship, Miriam DeShield shared a story of one of her employees, Tyrone. Tyrone had ridden his bicycle the wrong way on a one way street and had been stopped by the police.  Things got a little out of hand and Tyrone was finally taken to the station and charged with riding the wrong way and with using obscenity with the officers.

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Mr Oscar Mmbali and Ms Candi Young sit at head of meeting

Miriam’s concern was two-fold. Her first concern was teaching our students how to interact with a police officer in a way that would de-escalate a situation and her second was a concern about how the officers often do not show respect for the people they stop.

We took time to talk and ended up spending an hour deciding what to do next. We had worship following that discussion.

The result of the discussion was that Ms Miriam called into one of the morning talk shows and expressed her concern on the radio and invited anyone who was interested to attend a meeting at Friends Center on Thursday evening at 5:30. Meanwhile, Ms Candi tried to get Ms Miriam, Mr Oscar, and herself onto one of the morning talk shows on TV. That attempt was not successful but we did invite the students and their parents to the meeting.

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Tyrone tells his story.

Promptly at 5:30 Belizean time (5:52 pm) we started the meeting. Ms Candi and Mr Oscar set at head of meeting and introduced the school and the center. We then introduced Ms Miriam who introduced Mr Tyrone who told us his story.  His story sparked a lively hour-long conversation. In addition to the attenders of our meeting and Tyrone, we had a woman lawyer who works with the human rights commission. She was a very active participant in the discussion.

The outcome of the discussion, as summarized accurately by Mr Oscar, was three-fold: Teach people how to interact with the police, teach the police how to interact with people, and to begin to form a coalition of people and groups who would have an interest, the thought being that we would have a much greater impact if we worked together than if we try to each work separately. We chose to begin the effort by gathering the coalition. We made a list of the groups to be personally invited to continue the discussion next Thursday evening.

Ms Candi will again try to get Oscar, Miriam and herself onto one of the morning TV talk shows and will make a point of telling the story and of inviting interested persons to the conversation next Thursday.

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Of course there was food and people stayed around and talked for a good while.

It was, after all, a Quaker gathering.