Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 1at Holy Cross School

Woke up to clouds this morning, but it cleared up soon after. Had a delightful walk down the beach to Holy Cross. All was quiet when we arrived. We wandered around a little to see the changes and then met Lydia, the new volunteer Coordinator with her son Jonathan in tow. Francis came in soon after that and we presented the Feeding program money to her. She was delighted as they are in dire need. The breakfast program will run through this week and then will be cancelled due to lack of funds and they will be charging for snacks. The PTA has decided that the parents who can should pay $10 BZ ($5 US) for lunch. They began collecting that today and over 200 families paid today so maybe that will help keep that intact.

John, Francis, Jonathan, Lydia, and Jan

We had breakfast and then Mr. Freddie took us through the new state of the art composting bathrooms. Amazing! The bathrooms are beautiful and then we went downstairs to see the workings. The waste comes through the pipes to the round centrifugal separator where the liquid waste goes in one pipe and the solid waste drops to the black composter below. It is divided into four sections and it takes three months to fill one section and then it is rotated. At the end of the year the compost from the first section is ready to use in the garden.

They are trying to minimize the amount of water they use as it's very expensive. They have placed timers on the urinals so they flush every 4 hours instead of each use. When the system is complete they will actually reuse the gray water and totally eliminate town water at all. Mr. Freddy's tool room has been moved down here also with shelves all around the room. It's neat as a pin!

The building and the breezeway where the tools used to be stored is now becoming a sewing center as part of the Empowerment Project in San Mateo. Eight sewing machines had been donated by someone in the states. After months in customs they have finally arrived at the school. Once they get enough money to complete the room, there are ladies in San Mateo who will have a job making uniforms for Holy Cross and other schools in the community to purchase. The blessings keep on coming!
We then headed into San Mateo to go see the new road. There are actually two roads at the moment, the original Empowerment Project road coming from the Lagoon and the road from the bridge that is being built by the town. After the people began to build their own road, the powers that be were more or less shamed into helping in some way. We came to the town road first. It is being built on a foundation of trash. No food but lots of plastic bottles, leftover construction materials and seaweed etc that comes onto shore. Then they put some sand and gravel over the top. But, it is better than the "London Bridges" that are there now. The down side of this road is that with the trash have come the rats. They are looking at ways to address that issue early before they get out of control.
John on a "London Bridge".

As we were walking with Lydia we ran into Maggie, one of the ladies who will work in the Sewing Project. She has five children, two in high school, 2 at Holy Cross and a little one at home. One of those in high school is Lionel who used to sell us his jewelry.

This is Maggie's house. Fairly typical for a lot of San Mateo houses though we did see quite a lot of improvement in the housing. After a few more "London Bridges" we came to the Empowerment Project road. Now this is a real road. They are bringing huge rocks from the lagoon and using them as the foundation for the road and then filling with gravel and sand. A much better road that will last much longer.

We walked all the way down to the lagoon and then back across the "London Bridges" to school. We saw lots of new paint, building materials and a general air of confidence and hope as we would chat with folks along the way.
Time for job assignments! Due to a few physical limitations the heavy construction was out of the question, so the guys worked on prep for the water garden membrane. It has to be a totally smooth and level surface, no roots, small trees, rocks etc to break the membrane. It was HOT in the sun, but a great sea breeze that made it much more pleasant.
The ladies worked on putting the donations away (thank you very much!), distributing vitamins that were in 55 pound bags into canisters for each classroom and then began with the prep work for heights and weights and the medical work next week. We accomplished quite good work!
Just before we left Jan's friend Isolene came by after she finished her day in High School. Jan is providing the scholarship for her to go to High School and it's a wonderful relationship.

We headed home about 3:45 and cooled off a bit and had showers. There are two Scots here that we met over the weekend with whom we've had great conversations. They were in Cozamel for a wedding and went down to Tikal in Guatemala and worked their way back here, going through San Ignacio. Delightful guys.
For dinner we split as the guys wanted to watch the girls Duke basketball game. Guess they needed some hope after the Sunday guys game. John and his ladies went back to the Blue Water Grill and had a delightful dinner. The guys didn't fare so well...dinner was good, but the entertainment not what they hoped for.

Today was a great start to the week!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

We're safe and sound in Belize!

Team one met EARLY Friday morning at RDU and hopped on our plane after a long wait. We got there early enough to avoid the crowds! Good thing, as the plane had been overbooked. Had a good trip to Miami where we spent hours waiting for our connection. The Miami airport has these great fish and sealife sculptures in the airport!
Had lunch and got on board the plane for Belize. This one was only 1/3 full so we got to move around and get some legroom to catch a few winks before we arrived.
A safe arrival and down the ranp we came to go pick up our luggage and go through customs. Our friend Philip was there to pick us up and we headed for the water taxi across town. The traffic was the usual Friday afternoon congested snarl, but we made it in plenty of time. They had eliminated the 3:30 taxi water so we got to wait an hour longer. The 4:30 was crammed, but we arrived safely in San Pedro.
Mr. Victor (our favorite taxi driver) arrived to pick up the suitcases filled with donations to Holy Cross and the rest of us headed for Ruby's Hotel to get settled in. This was the first time we had arrived in the dark. The town is pretty quiet and tourism is way down. As one of the locals said while we were waiting for Mr. Victor, "When America goes down, we go down." Then we taught him the word economy. Went to the Blue Water Grill for a nice dinner and headed to bed early.

Saturday morning

We all felt right at home getting up for the sunrise on our favorite balcony in Belize! It didn't disappoint us.
John headed down to Reef Adventures to arrange a trip for us up the coast to the northern tip of Ambergris Caye to the Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve. It is a World Heritage Site because of its many unique natural characteristics. We headed for Estelle's for breakfast and were happy to be back in the land of Fry Jacks and Fruit Bowls!

John was successful in booking a tour for us so after breakfast we went back and got ready for snorkeling and adventuring. We boarded the boat and headed for the first of three snorkel sites. Belize has the second largest Barrier Reef in the world and the snorkeling is fabulous. There are lots of wonderful corals and sea life here.

After about 20 minutes of snorkeling we headed for Rocky Point where the Barrier Reef meets the shoreline.
Then we headed outside of the reef and ran into some medium swells. Fun ride! Meanwhile, the cook on the boat was preparing lunch.

We stopped and picked up one of the Rangers at the park and he guided us to the Office. It was low tide so we slowly made our way across the lagoon to the Headquarters.
Did a tour of the very nice Museum and then it was almost time for lunch! They brought out the rum punch to help us with the wait. The foil packages came off the grill and wow! Yummy hog snapper with vegetables! Compliments to the chef!
After a leisurely lunch we headed back to the boat passing this cute Carolina girl...
Back through the lagoon again, but the tide was coming in, so not quite so slow and then into the Canal that separates Mexico and Belize. It was dug by the Mayans through the dense mangrove forest to shorten their trade routes. Quite an impressive feat. We dropped the Ranger off at his research boat and headed for snorkel spot #2. This was our crew. The young boy is a student at Holy Cross who works on Sat and half of Sun and then goes home and does his homework. After about 15 minutes at stop 2, we headed back outside the reef. We were going with the swells here so easy ride, especially when the bottlenose dolphins decided to escort us! Very exciting. On to Snorkel Spot number #3. They were all great. Not everyone snorkeled. It was delightful just enjoying the sunshine and wonderful air in the boat!

Then back to shore and an hour or so to cleanup and rest and off to dinner at Carambas and a little ice cream to finish off the day. Super trip! Everybody had a wonderful time!

Sunday Morning

Back to Estelle's for breakfast...
and then back to our favorite deck for Morning Prayer and then a day of leisure to unpack, nap, wander the town and just relax before we begin work at Holy Cross bright and early tomorrow.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Belize Team 2011 About Ready for Takeoff!

The excitement is mounting! After Commissioning at the Annual Meeting, the Belize Team members began packing their bags, continued planning for the medical mission and dreamed of warm weather! The following folks will be heading to Belize this year....

Team 1 (Jan 28-Feb 5) -Bob Moore, Jan Lamb, Ted Triebel, Jim Hooker, Joanne Hooker, Jean Willard and John Willard.

Team 2 (Feb 4-Feb 12) - Joyce Avery, Kathy Arnold, Bob and Ginny Atwell, Scott Chapman, Beth Haynes, Peter Jacobi, Clara Murray, Lynn Patterson, Jim Short, Jean Willard and John Willard.

Thursday afternoon found Johnson Hall jumping as team members sorted and packed donated items for the teachers, students and community near Holy Cross Anglican School. Thanks to everyone who made the donations that filled the dozen suitcases!

Items were sorted by category and then packed. There were lots of nice surprises and the teachers and students will be delighted with the new supplies and books as well as all the medical supplies on their way!

Why won't this lock??
Pushed down on that suitcase a little too hard...
a little less pressure and it worked great!!

Every suitcase got weighed - 45# maximum.
No Friday morning surprises!

Team 1 takes off Friday morning at 7:00 am. We'll fly to Miami and then onto Belize. We'll be picked up by our friend Phillip and he will take us to the water taxi where we will board the boat and take a nice 90 minute ride to Ambergris Caye and Ruby's Hotel.

We hope you will follow our adventures on this blog! We'll add things as often as possible to keep you up with our adventures! This is your trip too!