This is an amazing culture, a strong people who have a streak of self reliance and work ethic that mimics that which made America great—If it is God’s will we will pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and just get ‘er done!
When we were first introduced to Belize, we seemed to think that we could come in, Clark Kent and Diana Prince (only a little older and a little slower) and do amazing things for the people of Belize! We were going to teach the childerns’ home to grow produce and we were going to teach the rescue shelter how to grow produce and raise a little livestock, we were going to go into the prison and help them to improve their produce production. We were going to enter into Sam Pablo and build a ram pump so they could grow more vegetables, and we were going to go to a technical school to teach them to build a ram pump and spread the knowledge to the surrounding villages. Yes, noble causes, great ideas and potentially changing lives, families, and communities—one project at a time!
Then the reality of life in Belize smacked us in the face and ripped our capes right off of our backs! These guys and gals are far better equipped than we had imagined! Tina who just graduated from the childrens’ home is now a student at University moving towards a degree in agriculture and returns every weekend to train and empower the others. The shelter had a group from Paoli, PA come in this summer and upgraded our garden project to build several raised beds where good food is being produced and feeding the girls. San Pablo grows sweet and hot peppers, coco, plantains, turmeric, annatto, ginger, callalou and more to feed their families healthy home grown food in the midst of their unemployment catastrophe. The trade school gladly took the parts for the ram pump and with the help of YouTube videos has constructed the pump and taught the students how to build one—without us even there! And the prison has some of the most amazing produce fields and production facilities we have ever seen!
We saw the strength and the spirit of the people of Belize, from north to south, and from east to west. We still have so much to learn, so far to go to build trust and be more than the rich white missionaries who are surely coming into our village to give us something. Looking back at the book When Helping Hurts, we knew that this is the pit and the stereotype that many who were here before us have conditioned the people to expect. Our goal has always been to come along side and to empower, not to enter, to give, and to go! This isn’t what most expect when they see us coming, and there is definitely a level of disappointment when we don’t arrive with wallets open and bags full of toys, candy, and useless trinkets! We plan to be here for the long haul, we need to do things a little differently and we need to “be as wise as serpents but as gentile as doves” as we enter these communities, and as we build relationships and partnerships…
We are nearing the 100 days in Belize milestone and still have so much to learn! In the past 20 years, Government organizations, Non-Government organizations, and teams of missionaries have come the the Toledo District and literally dumped more than $200 Million US Dollars into projects, buildings, trainings, and more, and the poverty rate remains among the highest in the world. The rate of food borne, and fecal borne sicknesses is among the highest in the world, and the levels of malnutrition (not starvation) are off the charts as well. And yet, the money keeps coming, and the projects continue—the same as it ever was!
All this money, all these gifts, and trinkets that have been given here make it extremely difficult for us to not be seen as the rich white Americans who come to give money—need a school built?—hey, I’ll bet they can pay for it, if we need some food at the market—there is a local price and a “white folk” price, interested in wooden bowls, craftwork, artwork, coffee or spices?–Oh yeah, a local price and an American price! Now, don’t get me wrong—we are here to help, we want to support the local farmers and pay a fair rate, we want to provide educational scholarships and books, and supplies, and funding for farmers to be able to do a better job! But, going back to the warning Jesus gave before sending his disciples into the field, we need to “be as wise as serpents and as gentile as doves” as we go about doing what we have been called to do here in Belize, because we could be view as “sheep among wolves” as we enter into the remote communities or even stroll through the local farmers market!
We knew that if this were to work ,we needed partners with credibility. If you have been following our journey, you will not be surprised—but in the past 2 weeks, we have secured 2 partnerships that will ensure that we are able to Sow Seeds in Belize for years to come! We are working with both of the technical schools in the area with programs focusing on agriculture. With IT VET, we are working with 2 students who are ready for their internship/community service projects. Our first 2 young ladies will be with us 2 days a week and will actually be leading and teaching our projects for us—a community training garden project and a vanilla & morenga nursery project in another village. This relationship will continue bi-annually, for our fall trip as well as our winter trip!
The second partnership is with Corazon Creek Technical School that services 12 very remote communities (most without electricity, running water, or cell phone coverage) They share with us that they had several goals, 1 being the improvement of the kids’ health, so we are working with them to (try to begin to) implement a fencing program to get the pigs into a designated area where folks wont be stepping in the scat. Next is increased nutrition, and we will be able we will help in 2 ways! 1Is by helping to build a seed bank that will be worked and built by the students and shared with their communities. And the 2nd is a morenga project—if you haven’t heard on morenga—Google it! There is a reason why they call it the miracle tree!! We will begin a 100 tree nursery with donated hardwood cuttings, which as it matures will be propagated into the students communities! And finally, we will be working with them to teach the students to grow high value crops (Coffee and Spices dried tropical fruits, seeds and more). We will be raising funding for a high tunnel to donate to the school which will be used as a passive solar drier. We will also be working with their food services department to help train to meet the Food Safety Modernization Act requirements for the processing of foods to be shipped back to the US.
These 2 partnerships are what one can only call God ordained—everything that we have been working towards and everything that we have hit speed-bump, after speed bump with are going to come to fruition with credibility and the backing of the Belize educational system! This has been a great week in the life of Sowing Seeds in Belize… Can’t wait to see what’s next!