Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017. Visiting our Scholarship Students

This morning Nancy spent the morning teaching a Standard 4 class, and Jan and Helen continued to record heights and weights for the children.
After lunch, we went to the high school on the island to visit some of the Holy Cross graduates.  All school costs money in Belize, so in order for children to attend high school, they must both pass a test and also have money for fees.  Four Holy Cross graduates are sponsored by St. Luke's members and friends.  We visited with  Ariany over the weekend, but she was home sick today.  She is sponsored by the Moores and sends them special love.  (And we're looking for others to join in Ariany's sponsorship--if you are interested in helping, contact the church office or the Moores.)

We were then able to talk with Ashanti and Kevin.  Ashanti is sponsored by the Chapmans and Atwells, and Kevin is sponsored by a larger number of St. Luke's members.  Here are Helen, Ashanti, Kevin and Nancy.  Note Ashanti's sweat shirt.  It was cold today--only 80.  ;)

The assistant principal helped us find Valdimir, who is sponsored by a family fund.  Jan has known Valdimir since he was in the first Special Ed classroom in Holy Cross.  He has always been smart as a whip, but has spina bifida which left him unable to use his legs. His mother was afraid to send him to school because if he was bullied, he would not be able to get away.  But when she heard about Holy Cross, she felt that it would be a safe place for him to learn.  And it was.  The next year, he moved into a regular classroom and over the years had multiple surgeries which allowed him to walk.  He got an infection in his foot last year and had to have an amputation, but is doing well and is prepared to graduate later this year.  He hopes to spend the next two years working in the morning and taking classes at the Junior College on the High School campus.  He would like to work in Information Technology and computers.

These children will steal your hearts

The kids at Holy Cross school are friendly, polite, and so many of them have an amazing sparkle in their eyes.  See for yourself:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017 Getting to know the school and starting our volunteer projects

Holy Cross School filled with teachers and students is a thing to behold!  Monday morning, some students were sweeping the floor:

Six teachers did not show up Monday morning.  We hear this is becoming more and more of a problem, especially the weekend after payday.  A number of teachers have family on the mainland, and perhaps they simply don't come back for school on Monday.  There are no substitute teachers here in San Mateo, so other plans needed to me made.  The vice principal took a class, some teachers split between two classrooms, and here you can see children carrying their desks from their own classroom into another for the day:

Nancy will be working in Ms. Williams' Standard 3 (5th grade) class.  Here, the class meets Miss Nancy and is telling her good morning:

Jan and Helen began weighing and measuring children:

San Mateo

This morning we had a tour of San Mateo.  It is quite a contrast from San Pedro near Ruby's.  San Pedro is one of the cleanest cities I've ever seen.  Trash is picked up neatly, the sidewalks are swept regularly, and the sand is raked regularly.  However, in San Mateo, there are piles and piles of trash:

These trash piles are not because the residents don't care, or that they don't have anything to do with the trash.  No.  It is because they use trash as fill -- to fill in the swam so that it becomes "land" and they are able to build on it.  As the community keeps adding trash to the above area, it will become more and more solid and in a few years, homes or other buildings will be able to be built on this space.

The roads in San Mateo used to be all like you see in the picture above.  They call these 2x6 structures "London Bridges" and that is how everyone got everywhere.  But the community organized and worked together to make a solid main road in the town and also some solid side roads.

Even though the standard of living here is lower than in San Pedro, and much lower than where we live, the cost of living is high (because of the cost of transporting everything to/from the island).  In fact, the cost of living is so high, it is difficult to get teachers to come and work at Holy Cross even though Holy Cross is known as a very good school.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017 Eucharist and a tour of the school

This week's crew is maybe the smallest we've had, but we've got our tasks to do and we'll do them to the best of our ability.

Sunday, we went to Holy Cross and lead a Eucharist for students, faculty and community members.

We updated the St. Luke's mural:

And we got a tour of the school.  Here are the plans for the Holy Cross campus.  The yellow buildings are complete, and the outlines are plans for future development.  (Yes, the buildings are planned to be built on the water.)

Here's the school kitchen:

The playground:

The library (with a really cool paper tree and lots of snakes made out of old neckties that have been stuffed):

The sewing room, where local women sew the school uniforms, bags, and repair items.  Holy Cross is a bit of a business incubator by collaborating with this sewing room:

And the computer classroom with 42 computers and 4g wifi.  Unfortunately, the school is short on teachers and the computer teacher has been having to take a regular classroom.  Everyone hopes that soon a new teacher will be found and Mr. Aaron can get back to teaching computer full-time.

Tomorrow we start our work!  Nancy Usher Williams will be in the classroom full-time while Jan Lamb and Helen Svoboda-Barber will record the heights and weights of all the students.

How much damage did Hurricane Earl do?

Since last year, Hurricane Earl came through Belize.  Our team was concerned about what damage might have been done.  It's mostly good news.  There were no deaths from the hurricane on Ambergris Caye.  However, most of the piers were destroyed.  Some of them have not been rebuilt:

Some repair is still ongoing:

But most of the piers and businesses are up and running:

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Where do we stay?

Our team stays at a place called Ruby's, just a block from the San Pedro airport.  (The airport just gets a few small prop planes per day.  We don't notice any airport noise.)  Ruby's accommodations are clean, safe, and sparse:

Here's the view when you look out the front of Ruby's (The blue building is a Roman Catholic primary school, and the airport is just behind it.):

And here's what you see from the back deck of Ruby's:

And here's what is next door to Ruby's. Yum!

Here, I'm drinking a cup of local Belizian "choffee."  It's chocolate nibs and hot water in a french press.  It was good, but chocolate tea is even better-- the shells of the cocoa bean are steeped in hot water. Delicious!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Where exactly are we?

St. Luke's will again have two weeks of mission work at Holy Cross Anglican School in San Mateo in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in Belize.  Because I flew Southwest Airlines and their flight arrives in the evening, I arrived a day before the rest of the team.  I have never been to Belize before, and was mightily confused about whether I was going to San Pedro or San Mateo!  When Jan arrived, she was able to help me figure out where in the world I was.
We are in Belize, the country south of Mexico and east of Guatemala:

We are on the island of Ambergris Caye, an island 28 miles long and 3 blocks (yes, blocks. Not miles.) wide, which provides 30% of the Belize GDP because of their tourism activity.  You can see Ambergris Caye on the above map in the water near the top right of Belize--a tiny portion of the country--especially when you know 1/3 of the country's income comes from this island.  

Near the bottom of the island, you can see the city of San Pedro.  It has about 16,000 residents, many restaurants, and hosts the airport for many resorts.  

San Mateo is something like a neighborhood or suburb of San Pedro.  The island was split in half many years ago when a hurricane ripped through and created a river between the north and the south.  San Mateo is in the north, and its 1,600 residents had not even basic roads, electricity, etc until just a few years ago.  Here is more information about San Mateo.  Holy Cross Anglican School is the center of community of activity in San Mateo.

Now I know where I am, and I hope you do, too.
                                       Helen Svoboda-Barber