Hand Up

There is an old Kriol saying in Belize “Han wash han.” Translation- sometimes we need other people to help fulfill our purpose, and cooperation benefits everyone.

I decided to form Hand Up as an initiative to help Belize’s many worthy non-governmental organizations (NGOs and .orgs), by giving them an occasional hand up. During my 15 years in Belize, I have volunteered with numerous charitable organizations. Many of these nonprofit groups have little to no budget for marketing and are always striving to raise awareness.

So far, the following great organizations have joined Hand Up.

My Goals are to:

  1. Raise awareness about their services and needs.
  2. Help their stories be told in a heartfelt and informative way.
  3. Increase NGO exposure to a diversified global demographic and showcase the remarkable work being done.
  4. Assist in fundraising and wish list donations.
  5. Help generate referrals of volunteers.

How you can help

Many travelers vacation with a purpose and bring down much needed donations and or make a cash donation when they have a bit extra. If you want to be a vacation philanthropist, email me at Laurie@tacogirl.com. Another way you can help is if you have any grant writing, general office or web tech experience that you would be willing to donate some time towards if there was a need. If you are interested in volunteering I can also assist you in finding the right opportunity.

Why Each Organization Is Worth Helping:

Aces Wildlife Rescue

ACES is a non-profit organization focused on protected species, specifically Crocodilians, and the conservation of crucial wetland habitats. Community education and rehabilitation are also part of their mission. This team of volunteers operates 24-7 with emergency wildlife response on Ambergris Caye – 623-7920. In 2020, ACES responded to 241 wildlife calls and handled a total of 133 animals. In Oct 2020, I was able to give Aces a donation from my locally and internationally fundraised island clean-up supplies. Some cut-resistant gloves were donated by Team Grassfed, and garbage grabbers were donated by Isla Bonita Yacht Club. Through Hand Up, ACES received a camera donation from islanders and first supplies from travelers in 2021. Assistance was also given to help raise funds for much needed new golf cart tires.

NGOs in Belize
Smiling crocodile – photo credit ACES

Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center (TBZTEC)

Focused on wildlife conservation through wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center exhibits over 200 animals and 45 + local species. Located in Belmopan in the Cayo District, it was founded in 1983, from a need to provide a home for wild animals that were abandoned after a documentary film about tropical rain forests. I have been to the zoo a couple of times (once overnight) and really admire their work. They do an amazing job of taking care of injured and donated animals. When possible they will release them safely back into the jungle where they belong.

 NGOs in Belize
An Ocelot I saw on the Belize Zoo night tour, loved it and my overnight Tropical Education Center stay

Mar Alliance

This organization is comprised of a thoughtful and knowledgeable group of scientists, conservationists, educators, fishers, students, guides, entrepreneurs, rangers, communicators, divers, and decision-makers. All with a common goal – meaningful conservation and positive change; for both endangered marine life & their habitats, and food-dependent local communities. The Mar Alliance team shares a positive global vision of people practicing mindful conservation to enable healthy and thriving marine life throughout the world’s tropical seas.

NGOs in Belize
Belize’s Half Moon Caye – protected area – photo credit Rachel Graham of Mar Alliance

Oceana Belize

Established in 2001, Oceana is the largest international ocean conservation and advocacy organization. Working to restore the oceans to their former glory, Oceana advocates for ocean restoration and science-based fishery management to help make our oceans as healthy and plentiful as they used to be. Their global offices work together to identify practical solutions and make them happen. By implementing targeted campaigns with measurable results, Oceana has accomplished dozens of official policy wins for marine life. They stopped bottom trawling to protect sea turtles and sensitive coral from the invasive commercial fishing gear. Oceana Belize was also instrumental in getting the Environmental Protection Resolution signed into law. That important initiative to stop pollution from plastics started the phasing-out of single-use plastics in Belize. Oceana’s hard work and achievements represent a new hope for the safety and biodiversity of marine life in Belize and worldwide.

hole chan marine reserve ambergris caye belize

Saga Humane Society (SHS)

Founded in 1999, Saga is the sole non-profit veterinary clinic on Ambergris Caye. SHS offers affordable pet care services, a spay/neuter clinic, a shelter for strays, and coordinates foster homes & adoptions. Volunteers and staff also advocate humane education within the community. Saga’s goal is to prevent cruelty and promote kindness to all domesticated and wild animals. Pre-Covid, in a last-minute inspiration for a Halloween fundraising effort, I held a donation box design challenge. The two entries raised extra funds and the article about the Halloween fundraiser brought worldwide awareness to Saga’s work.

NGOs in Belize
Fort Dog – photo credit Saga Humane Society

San Pedro Cancer Society (SPCS) and Belize Cancer Center (BCC)

Formed in 2010 this group has tenacity with their motto: Supporting the fighters, admiring the survivors, honoring the taken, and never, ever giving up! Early detection is the key to survival, especially in a country such as Belize, with a challenged medical system. They work closely with the Belize Cancer Center (BCC) in Dangriga, and this ad is a package deal for both. The BCC subsidizes approximately $10,000 a month to help 55 disadvantaged patients across Belize get cancer care. Before it was dissolved due to Covid, my Tropic Air flight Code for a Cause (CFC) raised $3,799 for the Belize Cancer Center. Thanks to one of my long-time readers (with six degrees of separation) Kristie Settas-Jones and her birthday vacation crew for helping both causes at my request. In addition to using CFC, they brought needed office supplies for the San Pedro Cancer Society as well. While on Ambergris, Kristie also planned an island scavenger hunt, and that fun event, raised, $300 BZD which was donated to the SPCS.

Belize Cancer Center in Dangriga
The Belize Cancer Center building in Dangriga

Triple R Response (RRR)

Triple R was created after a tragic aquatic accident on the island, from a desire to implement a water emergency response team on Ambergris Caye. Currently, this small volunteer-based group are the only emergency responders on the island. Triple R offers 24-7 response for water, land, and medical emergencies – 627-1117. Their goal is to help protect human life. Since they agreed to be in the program, I have been working with Billy and Traci to see how I can best help them with island safety and public awareness education.

NGOs in Belize
Triple R Response and Rescue Wings of Hope Plane San Pedro Airport – photo credit RRR

Wildtracks

Established in 1990 and located near Sarteneja, Wildtracks believes in protecting tomorrow, today, through results-oriented conservation projects. The organization performs ecosystem conservation, rehabilitation, and release of injured animals, along with protecting endangered species in Belize, and their habitats. More specifically they work with manatees, howler and spider monkeys. Wildtracks also works with Belizean Youth, (sometimes inner city) teaching them about the environment and inspiring them to help protect the Jewel that is Belize.

 NGOs in Belize
Rehabilitated, howler monkey, Innie – photo courtesy of Wildtracks

Thank you for giving a helping “Hand Up” by helping one of our country’s fantastic NGOs from my list above. For more details please email laurie@tacogirl.com. Your support will make a world difference.