Friday, May 21, 2010

Hey everyone!!

Sorry it has been so long since our last post! It has been a crazy last few weeks. We have been up to a lot of good here in Belize and finally want to share it with you. Here's an overview of all the projects we've been working on. After today, we promise to be better at posting more regularly. Enjoy! :)

The Soilet Project
Over the past few weeks, Wendy, Raymon, and Cydnee have been working diligently to find a village that could benefit from our Soilet. It has been difficult to find the right fit, but while searching for a village in need we came across a resort that wanted to help. A couple of weeks ago we started construction on the Soilet and have been working hard everyday to finish it. Now that Ben and Marissa are here, they have been able to help a lot too. Chris has also enjoyed helping out on the Soilet construction.

Health Fairs
Last weekend, Collet started running health fairs that will be held every Saturday all over the country. Because we helped Collet with the Kettering College health fairs a few weeks ago, he invited us to help him run these ones too. The health fairs will be held every from Saturday June 12 to July 3. This past weekend, several of us traveled down to Punta Gorda, a city at the southern tip of Belize in the Toledo district, to assist Collet in taking blood pressure and checking for diabetes in the villages. It’s really exciting to work with Collet in this way because many of the people we see have not been to the doctor for many years, if even at all. We were able to test everyone we visited for many common health concerns, including hypertension and diabetes, and we were also able to fit people with prescription glasses if they needed them.

La Loma Luz
One of the local hospitals, La Loma Luz, has been another one of our team’s targets lately. In the past few weeks, we have organized their medical supplies in order to make room for a new shipment of donations that is about to come in, scrubbed their indoor walls to prepare for painting, and performed other construction tasks that they have asked us to help with, including help with the construction of their new dialysis clinic that is being built on the hospital grounds. We are excited about the relationship we have built with them and look forward to working with them throughout the summer.

Volunteering in Hospitals
Last week, Collet Montejo came to Cayo and opened up a lot of great opportunities for us here. He is opening a health clinic here in San Ignacio at the end of the month and will need a lot of our help to get it ready. Also, once the clinic is open, there will be plenty of medical volunteer opportunities for our team.

While he was here he also introduced us to several of his health contacts at the local hospitals—La Loma Luz, San Ignacio Public Hospital, and Good Shepherd’s Hospital. Collet has plenty of volunteer work to do for anyone interested in the medical or health care fields.

Teaching English

Melissa teaches English every day at the Cornerstone Foundation for two hours. She has three students that come everyday—Patricia, Isabel, and Evelyn. Her students have very little background and experience with English, so Melissa has enjoyed teaching them the very basics of the English language. Every once in a while, her regular students will bring their friends to class, so it has been fun for her to work with lots of different people. Dominique, Jacob, Shawney, Sarah, Ray, Calvin, Lisa, Katie, and Lucy have all come on different days to help her in the classroom.

Tutoring Math

Dominique has been tutoring several community members in math for the past few weeks. Her students make up a wide range of ages, from little kids to grown adults. At a particularly crowded tutoring session Jake had to step in and play math teacher for the little children while Dominique taught two of the older boys. Now that the new wave is here and Dominique is leaving, Stephanie and Kristin will be taking over Dominque's tutoring project.

Women’s Group

Cydnee has been working with a woman’s group from Cornerstone. She meets with them every other week to teach them life skills or other useful skills, such as, making jewelry, cooking, holding bake sales, and whatever else the women want to do. The women expressed interest in learning computer skills, so Cydnee created a course to teach twice a week for fourteen weeks. She has been teaching basic computer skills, typing, and is currently doing an introduction to the program, Word. The women have very little experience with computers. Most of them struggled at the beginning with just controlling the mouse. The women love the computer class and are progressing so fast. Now that Shawney is here, she has also started a computer class that she will be teaching twice a week.

Octavia Waight

We just found an old folks home here in San Ignacio that is in need of volunteers. We have already sent several volunteers over to make a difference in the lives of the people there. Sarah, Shawney, Melissa, Katie, and Lucy have all had the chance to go so far. We plan to send at least two people over to the center for a couple of hours a few times a week.

Teaching Piano and Dance

Cydnee and Melissa have started teaching music and dance to community members here in San Ignacio. Cydnee is teaching piano lessons, and Melissa is teaching a latin dance fitness class. These classes are usually held at night after the working day is over.


Jacob and Dominique attended an AIDS conference last week that went really well. The National AIDS Committee met with the Cayo district committee to discuss possible funding for outreach projects in the rural villages to raise HIV/AIDS awareness.

The Red Cross DEPECO Project

Jacob, Melissa, and Dominque worked with the Red Cross on their DEPECO project. The Red Cross distributed first-aid kits and taught classes in primary schools to implement emergency and response plans all over the Cayo district. They went and visited schools in Arenal, Spanish Lookout, and all over San Ignacio.

It's been a great few weeks. We've had only a few minor injuries (notice Cyd's eyepatch below) and have really enjoyed having the second-wavers here. We promise to be better at posting! Until then! :)

We have lots more pictures that we want to post but the Internet cafe is closing, so be sure to check back soon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our first week in Belize

Hola amigos desde San Ignacio, Belize! We first-wave volunteers have made it through our first week and want to tell you all about it. Most of us arrived last Wednesday afternoon. Here are some of the highlights from our week:

Day One:

On the first day, Ray and Calvin picked us up at the airport and showed us around Belize City, where we stayed for a couple of days with a missionary couple from our church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was great getting to know them. They were SO good to us while we were here! For dinner we had our first belizean meal: rice and beans, with some chicken and fried plantain. Belizeans love their rice and beans. Most of them have it every day. It was fun meeting each other and spending the day together. That night we also went to go meet some students from Kettering College who we worked with for a few days at some of the health fairs that they had here in Belize. It was great meeting all of them.

Here we are at the Dunfords home right after they picked us up from the airport (from left to right: Dominique from Stenungsund, Sweden; Cydnee from Logan, Utah; Calvin from Purcellville, Virginia; Jacob from Rexburg, Idaho; Raymon from Charleston, Utah; and Melissa from Houston, Texas):

This is the Dunfords' home where we stayed our first night.

Day Two:

On our first full day in Belize we met up with our Kettering College friends at their health fair. Meet Collet Montejo, the public relations manager of Belize Healthcare Partners Limited who helped run the show. He’s the man! He’s helped us so much since we’ve been here, not only with setting us up with amazing opportunities to work in his hospital, but also with showing us around Belize City.

Our first day here in Belize City we met up with twenty-five students from Kettering College to assist them with their second health fair. It was great jumping right into a project on our first day. Here's a picture of Ray at the check-in table:

The health fair offered lots of different services to the people of Belize free of cost. The people were able to come and get their blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked, eye exams and prescription glasses, and ultrasounds. After making their way through these services, the people were educated on different health topics, including CPR and choking, dental hygiene, HIV, hand washing, and menopause. This picture was taken at the dental hygiene booth:

Melissa became an expert at taking blood pressure:

As you can see, we work hard, but we play hard! Here we took a break to dance to the electric slide. When we all couldn't remember how it went, a cute Belizean woman at the fair (with super high blood pressure ha!) jumped in to show us how it's done:

After the fair, Belize Healthcare Partners Limited treated us to dinner at Sumathi Indian Restaurant. It was delicious!

After dinner, Collet took all of us on a tour of the city. We drove by the south side of town to look at the poorest part of the city. It was really sad to drive through the neighborhoods and see how rundown some of the homes are here. It feels so good to be in a place where there is so much need. Collet also drove us to see St. John's Cathedral, the oldest Anglican church in Central America. It was built in 1812.

During our tour of the city, our van overheated. It was crazy being stranded in the middle of Belize City after dark. It’s a good thing we were in a large group. Here's a picture of Andy cooling it down for us.

Day Three:

First thing Friday morning we left the Dunfords’ for Cayo, the district of Belize where we'll be living this summer. Ray and Calvin had already bought our coral home before we got here. It’s not pink. And it’s not salmon. And it’s not orange. It’s coral. haha! We live on the bottom floor of this amazing house with wallpaper for carpet and cochroaches and lizards and possessed dogs that bark all night as pets. We are truly living the Belizean dream. (Second and third wavers: please still come. We promise you’ll love it!)

We spent most of the Friday walking around town buying supplies to get our house set up. We needed fans, foam mattresses, cleaning supplies, and water. Later that day Calvin and Ray introduced us to our Cook, Ms. Kay, and our neighbor, Mr. Kibb. This picture was taken on the way over to Mr. Kibb's:

Here we are taking the mattresses home from the Foam Depot. Ray had to ride with them in the back of Mr. Kibb's truck.

At the end of the day we decided to take a tour of our new hometown: San Ignacio.

The coolest part about this city is the huge river that runs right through the middle. The river is always filled with locals who are swimming or washing their clothes in it. It's awesome!

Here's a picture of all of us relaxing after a long hot day. We only lasted about a minute on the bank before we had to jump in.

The current was pretty strong. Calvin called it a natural swimming treadmill. Too funny!

After cooling off at the river, we went to go buy some fans! Here we are assembling these bad boys:

And here we are unassembling these bad boys. (Cause we did it wrong the first time. And the second.)

Here's a picture of the girls. We already love each other.

That night we met up with some members of our church here. They had a mother's day activity and invited us. It was super fun. We ended up having a dance party afterward with all of them. Here's a picture of us in the back of Mr. Kibb's car on our way home. One of our favorite things about the Belizean culture is that we get to ride in the back of everyone's trucks.

Friday was a great day!

Day Four:

Saturday morning, we woke up at 4:30AM to get ready to catch our bus to Orange Walk for another health fair with our Kettering College friends. This picture was taken on our walk to the bus stop:

After a five hour bus ride (where most of our time was spent learning Spanish from Jake and Calvin) we made it to the Orange Walk health fair. It was packed. There was plenty for us to do when we arrived, so we went straight to work.

Melissa and Dominique manned the intake table for most of the day. Five hundred and sixty people came through while we were there. It was great to be able to serve so many people in one day.

Here is a picture of all of us with Collet. (Ray stayed home because he was feeling too sick to join us. We sure did miss him!)

At the end of the fair, Kettering College thanked us with some t-shirts and hats from their school. It was great working with them. We all became such good friends.

Here is a picture of Andy giving eye exams to his patients:

Once the fair was over, a lot of us played football outside with the kids. Here's another picture of Andy with all of them:

After the fair, Collet drove us to the home of one of the doctors that helped out at the fair. Her house is part of an alcoholic rehabilitation center that's on a jungle resort. This resort was amazing. It had a ton of cool stuff: RVs, gyms, monkeys, horses, a carpentry shop, kinup (a fruit that Calvin refers to as nature’s jolly ranchers) trees, water buffalo, and a cool river. Check out these pictures of the river: We get to live here!

Here's a picture of Mandy the wild monkey.

It was such a great day!

Day Five:

Sunday morning we woke up to go to church. Our church has two different branches in the area—a Spanish branch and an English branch. Ray and Cydnee went to represent our group at the English branch, while Jacob, Calvin, Dominique, and Melissa attended the Spanish branch. After church we dropped by Mr. Kibb’s house to e-mail our families and call home to wish our moms a happy Mother’s Day.

Jacob and Melissa spent some quality time playing some intense freeze tag with the neighborhood kids. Little did we know that this innocent game of fun would lead to the injury of both of the girls in this picture. First, Jacob came around the corner and saw poor little purple-shirt girl lying on the ground. He picked her up and kept running around with her and playing the game. When he came around the corner the second time, still holding cute little purple-shirt girl, he found poor little Melissa lying on the ground with all of the neighborhood kids standing around her trying to get her up. She had jumped up to tag someone on the balcony, landed on the steps weird, and sprained her ankle. We learned later that in Creole, “Bliggity blam boom, boff” is a much more expressive way to say “She slipped and fell.” Here's a picture before "she jrop."

Jacob and Ray were nice enough to help her walk home:

And nice enough to take care of her once they got there:

Day Six:

Monday was spent going to meet with several different non-profit organizations (NGOs) in the area. Ray and Cydnee traveled to Belmopan to meet with Galen University to discuss our Soilet project. Calvin, Jacob, Dominque, and Melissa met with Cornerstone Foundation and CARE Belize in the morning and then met up with Ray and Cydnee to visit ProBelize, the Red Cross, and Sacred Heart College. It was great meeting all of the non-profit leaders in the area to talk about opportunities to help eliminate poverty here in San Ignacio. We look forward to working with these organizations this summer. We already have opportunities to help this week.

We spent some time in the afternoon shopping for our microwave, fridge, and washing machine that we plan to buy later this week. We also stopped by a few fun gift shops. Here’s Jacob rockin’ his sweet dread hat. The owner of the shop turned to correct us when he said, “That’s a dreadlock rasta, maan” Who do you think looks more legit? Jacob in his dreadlock rasta or this sweet Belizean that’s been rockin’ dreads since Belize won her independence in 1981?

Here’s another Creole phrase for ya. Can you guess what it means?

Here's a picture of us doing what we do best:

Here’s a picture that was taken as we were walking to meet with the Red Cross.

Here we’re talking to Jorge Aldana at the Sacred Heart College. He had lots of great ideas for projects that we can do while we’re here. We’re most excited about the river cleanup project they have next month and their willingness to work with us on our Soilet project. We’re also going to help him come up with solutions to the problems they have on their campus.

Jacob had an accident checking the water line to check if we could hook up our washing machine to it. Ray was lucky enough to witness the incident:

We were really happy that we were able to accomplish so much on Monday.

Day Seven:

HELP International allows volunteers to spend their Saturdays traveling the country to sightsee. Since we worked in Orange Walk last Saturday, we decided to take Tuesday as our holiday. A friend from church, Efrain Medina, took us to Hopkins Bay where he had to work for the day. Enjoy these beautiful pictures of our first visit to the beach:

We finished the night off right with some Chinese food. This city is full of tons of awesome Chinese places to eat. It’s been a great first week. We’re excited for the weeks and months we have ahead of us to do as much good as we can for the people here in Belize.

Until next week!