Bring it to Belize

Lo­cal Angli­can parishes fill­ing ship­ping con­tainer for Cen­tral Amer­i­can stu­dents


A 40-foot ship­ping con­tainer will be parked in front of Hindy’s Home Hard­ware on Pow­ell Drive in Car­bon­ear through­out the month of Au­gust with hopes that res­i­dents through­out the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion re­gion and be­yond will help fill it with do­na­tions for school-aged chil­dren.

The con­tainer’s des­ti­na­tion? Belize.

Twenty lo­cal vol­un­teers and one nurse from St. John’s will be mak­ing a trip to the coun­try Nov. 15-24 on their own dime to dis­pense the do­nated items to Ma­hogany Heights, a vil­lage of ap­prox­i­mately 900 peo­ple on the east coast of Belize, says Rev. Canon Wil­liam Strong, Angli­can min­is­ter lead­ing the pro­ject.

Belize is lo­cated be­tween North and South Amer­ica.

Lo­cal Angli­can parishes will be ac­cept­ing do­na­tions at the lo­ca­tion un­til Sept. 1, when the con­tainer must be ready to go in or­der for it to ar­rive at the des­ti­na­tion by Novem­ber, he ex­plains.

They are call­ing the pro­ject “22 tons for Belize.”

Learn­ing from each other

This trip is not a typ­i­cal church mis­sion, rather it is a learn­ing ad­ven­ture for all par­tic­i­pants.

“Our group is go­ing to be with peo­ple rather than go­ing to do for peo­ple,” Strong says.

The group will not be wear­ing match­ing t-shirts and they have no plans to in­ten­tion­ally stand out. They will at­tempt to in­te­grate into the pop­u­la­tion as equals in or­der to work with lo­cal res­i­dents.

“The pro­ject is about cre­at­ing and main­tain­ing a com­pan­ion­ship with the (Angli­can church) in Belize,” Strong says. “We are look­ing to have a 10-year re­la­tion­ship with them.”

Many is­sues fac­ing com­mu­nity

Ac­cord­ing to the coun­try of Belize’s web­site, the vil­lage of Ma­hogany Heights is home to a failed satel­lite cen­tre for Belize City.

Strong had the op­por­tu­nity to take a trip to Belize in Jan­uary to be­gin his own jour­ney for the pro­ject and ex­pe­ri­enced “cul­ture shock.”

He ex­plains that many for­mer res­i­dents up­rooted and moved out of the town, leav­ing their homes de­serted, and now they are over­grown and un­kempt.

Many cur­rent res­i­dents of the town have made th­ese properties their homes.

“It’s a lot of aban­doned houses peo­ple have moved into and just oc­cupy,” Strong ex­plains.

High crime rates and poverty are ma­jor is­sues in the area, and in­dus­try is al­most non-ex­is­tent.

Strong ex­plains a scary sit­u­a­tion he en­coun­tered dur­ing his visit that is not an un­com­mon prac­tice in Belize.

“I saw a man rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle with his wife on the back. Their 18month-old baby was stood up on the lady’s knee,” Strong shakes his head. “They weren’t wear­ing hel­mets.”

Traf­fic is scarce in the town. In fact, there is only one bus stop, and that ser­vices a bus to Belmopan, the clos­est ur­ban cen­tre, some 30 kilo­me­tres away.

Liv­ing in th­ese cir­cum­stances, Strong be­lieves, will help en­rich the lives of the New­found­lan­ders trav­el­ling there, and will al­low them to learn and grow from other ex­pe­ri­ences.

“It gives us the op­por­tu­nity to come to­gether as an archdea­conry,” he says. “It gives us the op­por­tu­nity to look above our own per­sonal sit­u­a­tions.”

For the safety of the trav­ellers, they will stay in a re­sort with sim­i­lar ameni­ties as the town in a low-crime area.

St. Agnes Angli­can School

Ma­hogany Heights is home to a cam­pus for St. Agnes Angli­can School, which ed­u­cates some 215 stu­dents from Grade 1-8.

Ac­cord­ing to the web­site for Belize’s Angli­can school sys­tem, most of the chil­dren come from poor house­holds that have been stricken with un­em­ploy­ment or sin­gle par­ent fam­i­lies strug­gling to get by.

There are many small build­ings with cut out holes, not win­dows, that act as school­houses where chil­dren are taught sub­jects in English, but no cafe­te­ria.

Strong ex­plains that ev­ery child at­tends classes ev­ery day in their blue uni­form, and they greet ev­ery­body cor­dially and in unison when they walk through the door.

Part of Strong’s pro­ject is to have the con­tainer be­ing used to ship do­nated items con­verted into a cafe­te­ria for th­ese stu­dents.

The school has been the sub­ject of re­cent crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, mostly theft, Strong says, men­tion­ing wires have been re­moved from the build­ings dur­ing break-ins. They now have bars on their win­dows.

The vol­un­teer group will as­sist the com­mu­nity to sup­port the school and will try to set up a lit­er­acy cen­tre.

The en­tire pro­ject is ex­pected to cost some $30,000, and all vol­un­teers will cover their own costs for travel and lodg­ing.


It gives us the op­por­tu­nity to look above our own

per­sonal sit­u­a­tions.

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