New Belize Rotary Club meeting at Banyan Bay

Dreams Do Come True

I would like to personally congratulate the new Ambergris Caye Belize Rotary Club for jumping in with both feet and making a difference in our community so quickly. Without a doubt, they will go far and grow strong fast. 

A Golden Invitation

On Wednesday past, Shirlee Arnould our Branch Coordinator, Heidi Simmons our newly appointed Blood Drive Coordinator and I were invited to represent the San Pedro Branch of the Belize Red Cross at the Rotary Club’s weekly meeting. They wanted to know firsthand what we do and how they could help. This invitation is as good as gold and proof to me that dreams do come true. I have been quietly asking for more cavalry since 2014 and a large group of really great people just stepped up.

I was tasked with telling them about our youth group, volunteer vacations and our First Aid Program.

The one thing that is making me finally like public speaking (even though I still get butterflies) is being able to tell people about the unfolding of the movie that has long been running in my head and how the next scene is coming to reality before my eyes. My pleasure in that comes greatly from the fact of seeing the giant puzzle come together where all the charity organizations take it to a new level of working smarter not harder to help each other rise up strong for the greater good of everyone.

Youth are Precious Gems of our Future

I have long known since my first volunteer education at Holy Cross, that our youth are not getting enough proper adult role models in their lives. This is not necessarily because the parents are intentionally neglectful (although there is that too). Often parents are working long hours and 6 days a week to barely survive.

One of many life-changing experiences with children I have had from those days was at our big Wet Willy’s Cinco De Mayo Auction fundraiser. That night I found myself as an instant chaperone to two-grade school kids at 10:00 PM. I remember it clearly as I arrived at our outside table with a youngster under each arm, a friend said “Shouldn’t they be at home at this time, where are their parents?” My instant reply was the fact that they are alone at this age and time for whatever reason means they need to be around caring adults. I was glad they were smart enough to find their way to the party and adults they knew and trusted. Immediately I alerted Vernon (the school volunteer coordinator) and the Holy Cross team quickly sprang into action. We took their drink orders and explained to the kitchen staff that we needed two late orders of whatever they were able to do. The kids were happy to have red Fanta and healthy-sized plates BBQ with all the trimmings. I was happy to see them eating and dancing afterwards knowing that they were both feeling safe and comfortable.

Enough from my history about why we need a strong Red Cross youth group.

San Pedro Branch Youth Group

As for my ongoing education and building our youth group, I  jumped at the chance to be part of Street Beat which was a health-oriented training funded by the Norwegian Red Cross in 2014 and presented by instructors Shirlee Arnould and Mike Memeo. In this two-day training, our youth learned about sexually transmitted infections and the proper use of condoms. Following their training, they were sent out in small groups with an adult at San Pedro Lobsterfest block party to hand out brochures with condoms in them and educate the public on why it is important to practice safe sex. I have also been privileged to chaperon our youth group twice to the mainland and a country-like setting. It was amazing to see the wonder on their faces and feel the excitement of youth that have never been off the island. Being with them in a country setting with horses, a Brahma bull and seeing a carpet of fireflies on the grass as we walked to the mess hall for dinner with folks from all the other branches countrywide – priceless.

Volunteer Vacations (V.V.)

I am forever grateful that so many people find me through my blog and being a Destination Expert on Trip Advisor. This has brought or branch some amazing groups of people that came down to get their hands dirty and enjoy the beautiful country of Belize.

In order to help make our branch more self-sustaining and continue to build the capacity of our island, we have started marketing and host Volunteer Vacation groups. So far we have had 4 V.V. groups raging from 11 – 28 people from Texas, Toronto, Colorado and Florida.

Projects included:

  • No amount of time is too small for SPBRC in regards to volunteering. So when Toronto group Sperro approached us and said after volunteering in Orange Walk they were coming to the island for 3 days and asked how they could help The branch teamed up with the San Pedro Food Bank and SAGA to organize a large scale one day food drive. It was a big success with over 50 volunteers set up at 15 locations around town collecting food and cash donations.
  • Cataloging Ambergris Caye Elementary School library, building a wheel chair ramp and other repairs to make the school safer. Because we were not looking to the group for a cash donation having booked their accommodations, they were able to make one to the school and buy them some much needed tools.
  • The Florida group came twice and did an depth assessment of San Mateo in order to help Belize Red Cross obtain the necessary information to apply for grants to fix the infrastructure of that area.

Our next group of 6 arrives from Pennsylvania tomorrow. They will be doing a week-long free dental clinic as well as donating a large number of supplies. Some of the group expressed an interest in bring groceries to people in need so Shirlee and I set them up to bring their donations and help at the San Pedro Food Bank next Tuesday during their weekly distribution. I also notified the Foodbank Immediately to let all their families know that they can get free dental care from Mon 18th – Fri 22nd and times will be 8 – noon & 1 – 5 at the Poly Clinic Dental Room.

Changing History Through Saving Lives

We are working hard to make a difference and make Ambergris Caye safe. Our work in First Aid has been brought to the attention of the International Federations in Trinidad, Panama and Geneva Switzerland.

Since San Pedro Branch’s re-inception in 2013, 263 have been trained from 46 businesses and 2 lives have been saved; both were children. Words can not describe the feeling Shirlee and I had the first time we saw 10-year-old Mirna riding her bike after Victoria House staff Marlon Gonzalez had saved her life on new years eve 2014. Our Branch made page 4 of the IFRC Voices of the America’s for Marlon’s lifesaving work.

Please click through to read more on the Heroic Indiana Jones moment by Victoria House Resort staff Marlon Gonzalez and see some great resort shots with Mirna and her family by Karen Brodie Photography.

Building our Capacity Country wide

Soon it was Shirlee’s turn to talk. She spoke about something near and dear to her heart; Blood Drives. Her now 20-year-old daughter required several transfusions as a baby, so she has long been an advocate for this cause.

Living on an island without a hospital and no current option for blood storage and the fact that regardless of the need (be it a planned procedure or an emergency) patients are required to produce the same number of pints they need, has made the goal increasing blood drives and San Pedro Branch doing countrywide training a passion of mine.

So when the Rotary asked how they could help, the two of us did not even have to retreat to the think tank to figure out what to ask for – our answer was clear. We need funding for our recently approved (by Belize Red Cross Headquarters) plan to go countrywide and train all the branches to do quarterly blood drives.

Because of our work and getting out to mainland press, we have had requests for blood from Corozal, Orange Walk, Caye Caulker, Belize City, Belmopan, Dangriga and Punta Gorda. After witnessing the results our hard work was producing and an unfulfilled need, Director General Lily Bowman agreed to have San Pedro Branch do training country-wide. She wants us to share our personal experiences, tips and Standard Operating Procedures that were put together by our former Blood Drive Coordinator, Sue Barkhouse.

In getting all branches working together on quarterly drives we will greatly be able to build the capacity of our country and save more lives. Please click through and read Community Collaboration helps us all write up to gain a further understanding of just how easy it would be to have a countrywide blood shortage and important our work in this area is.

More Dreams Come True

Arcadia visit to Belize Generates Global Outreach Initiative

GLENSIDE, PA “April 11”, 2016 six Arcadia faculty from the College of Health Sciences, School of Education as well as the Dean of the School of Global Business visited the town of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, off the mainland of Belize from February 27 through February 28, 2016. All who attended were there to evaluate opportunities for community outreach, student research and education for all three colleges/schools.

Arcadia University has a history of global outreach and global social responsibility that has and will continue to pave the way to inspire growth in small communities internationally. Currently, Arcadia is working with leaders from the emerging community of San Pedro, Belize. Through this partnership, Arcadia will assess, evaluate, and provide assistance in various areas of expertise, including health services, education, and business. This is the first of what will hopefully become several global outreach initiatives.

This relationship is a result of Arcadia alumna, Lara Goldman. Goldman, who currently resides in Belize, saw there was a great need for physical therapy while volunteering at a local camp for children with special needs. Shortly after, Goldman contacted the College of Health Sciences at Arcadia and asked if any alumni would be willing to come down and volunteer at the camp.

After seeing what these volunteers could do for the community, Goldman developed a vision and flew to Pennsylvania to meet with members of the Arcadia community where she developed relationships with the School of Education, College of Health Sciences and the School of Global Business.

Arcadia faculty, along with graduate and undergraduate students will play a key role in educating the developing community of San Pedro. Arcadia sees this opportunity as the next step in the process of integrating global awareness by creating opportunities for its faculty and students to engage in global research while contributing to international community-based learning.

After a fruitful initial visit to San Pedro, Arcadia plans to move forward with the global outreach initiative as they travel back to Belize in August 2016 to begin educating the community in the areas of business, education, and healthcare.

Ideally, Arcadia would like to provide assistance to continue future success in building a prosperous community through developing ways to:

  •  Train community leaders in the areas of leadership, budgeting, and marketing;
  • Assist the Polyclinic with general maternity and infant/child care
  • Address Special Education programs at local schools

Press release sent in by Lara Goldman 12 Belize.

Another Group With Big Dreams

Tuesday, Apr.11, 2016. Dateline, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

World Ranked Laser Sailors Visit Belize Sailing School

On Sunday, April 10, 2016, two vivacious and highly decorated Laser Sailors, Hanne Weaver, 20, and her brother Ted, 23, visited the Belize Sailing Center and provided inspirational training and racing for the school’s aspiring young Laser sailors.

Among Hanne Weaver’s many accomplishments is winning the 2012 USA Junior Female Single-person-Dingy Championship at age 16. She currently ranks 3rd among US senior women Laser Radial sailors and is in a very strong position to make the 2020 Women’s US Olympic Laser sailing team. Hanne is putting off full-time college to pursue her Olympic goal; she is an assistant manager at a Seattle WA branch of West Marine, the large and prestigious US water sports outfitter and retailer. West Marine fully supports Hanne’s sailing ambitions and allows her time off to pursue them.

The Belize Sailing Center was fortunate that Hanne and her family took the time for their visit. By the end of February, Hanne had already competed in 2 international regattas – the Miami Olympic Class Regatta, followed by the European Laser Senior Championships in the Canary Islands.

Her older brother Ted has been out of Lasers for some years and now sails other classes, but when he was younger he sailed into the 3rd spot in the junior men’s USA Laser rankings.

On Sunday, April 9, Hanne and Ted responded to the challenge to race against some of the Belizean Sailing School’s sailors. A friendly 3-race regatta was arranged. It took place in deceptively shifty 10-12 knot winds over clear waters off Caribbean Villas Hotel in San Pedro.

The challengers were Belize’s own Blanca Velasquez, 15, who competed well in Lasers in December’s 2015 International Youth Laser Radial World Championship Regatta in Langkawi Malaysia, Sarah White, 15, of San Pedro, who got her own Laser last year, and Everald Dixon,15, who has been sailing Lasers for only 6 months. Competing in his own Laser against these 5 young entrants was Andy Milner, 48, the wiley old vet who had trained the Belizean racers in Optimist Dinghies. He is now the Belize Sailing School’s Founder and Managing Director. In brief, it was a one-day multi-generational, 3-race, mini-regatta. Winner-take all… against 2 of the world’s best. What a thrill.

Two of Belize’s top Optimist sailors refused to be left out of the chance to be on starting lines against two of the world’s finest sailors, so National champ Kevin Velasquez and 3rd ranked Caroline Sersland joined the regatta in an Optimist match race, which Caroline won.

Not surprisingly, Hanne Weaver won the Laser regatta sweeping first place in all three races. Brother Ted ranked second with two 2nd places and a 3rd. Blanca Velasquez had managed to edge him out and take the number 2 spot in the second race. Andy Milner finished the regatta in 3rd place, ahead of all of his former Optimist Dinghy students. Sarah White finished fourth. San Pedro’s own delicious Kaw Kaw Dark Chocolate with Nibs bars were awarded as trophies to Hanne, Ted, and Andy.

Later, the sailors all gathered around Hanne, asking questions, getting advice on boat handling and tactics, and learning what it is like to be at her level in the sailing world and how to get there. Sarah White doubtless spoke for the other Belizean sailors when she said that the time spent on the water and on land with the Weavers was an inspirational experience and revealed that Hanne had given her several tips that improved her racing skills then and there.

Press release sent in by Forrest Jones, Media Relations, Belize Sailing School.

Photos courtesy of Belize Sailing School

San Pedro Sailing School youth training
Race Start
Trainee with Belize Sailing School Ted Weaver
Ted Weaver
Belize Sailing school Regatta
Hanne’s victory smile
Youth sailing with San Pedro Sailing Club
Heading to the finish

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