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  • March 25, 2014: Day 4 In Belize by Chris

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/25/2015 11:28:05 AM

    Day 4: In Search For

    Today started out similar to the last two. Each of us typically wakes up a little early to have a little time to ourselves. Whether it’s reading a few pages in a good book, skimming through the latest Facebook posts, or enjoying the already warm and humid morning on the porch with a cup of coffee listening to the sounds of Belize, we seamlessly go about our morning business until Ms. Virginia calls us to the table for breakfast. I must admit, I was a bit sore after spending the better half of the day digging trenches, but when you wake up in the morning and watch the sunrise and you realize that you’re in Belize, the soreness is merely an added bonus. Even if it’s only for a short while, I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to wake up in Belize.

    2015 Belize view 2015 Belize Hammock

    Upon arriving at Liberty, each of us made haste to pick up where we left off from yesterday. Ryan and I were especially eager to make up ground from yesterday’s mild letdown with the progress we made on the trenches. After a strong start yesterday morning, our momentum was all but depleted when we ended up digging into some dense clay and a thick patch of roots. We resumed our mission today with a more conservative goal and better game plan as to how we would attack this mess we found ourselves in. We dug for a good three hours before we broke for lunch, at which point I was reassigned to help Cal while Luke replaced me to work with Ryan in the trenches.

    For our first task, Cal and I set out to take a handful of measurements in the dining and kitchen facility. The measurements were to be used to create something that would help reduce the echoing in the dome structure. If you’ve ever been to George Bush Airport in Houston, when you stand in the middle of the dome, it’s a lot like being in the “echo chamber” in Terminal C. Cal had a brilliant vision of having an acoustic engineer and one of Seattle University’s distinguished art faculty to collaborate on the project. This project won’t be done this time around, but I’m eager to see what comes of it when I come back next year!

    2015 Belize day 4 capentry  2015 Belize day 4 painting

    Our second task had us taking more measurement, this time in the old library-turned-guesthouse near the entrance to Liberty. Ms. Agatha wants to create a place where the volunteers can escape to and have a bit of privacy away from the hustle and bustle of the home (44 kids running around can exhaust even the best of volunteers). After taking our measurements and looking around the building, it was evident that it was in need of some dire TLC and elbow grease. Cal was particularly enthused about this project, partly because this guesthouse has the potential to be something truly amazing. The hope (and plan) is to create a practical and comfortable place where volunteers can come and stay onsite, which would allow them to truly experience the essence of Liberty Children’s Home.

    I feel comfortable speaking on behalf of this year’s group when I say that we all share Cal’s and Agatha’s enthusiasm and vision for this project (and for all the projects).

    As the day drew to a close, I made my way to the library to check in on Nicole and Tessa to see how their project was coming along. I noticed several children running in and out and laughing as I approached the library. When we first walked into the library on Sunday, it was like walking into an unfrequented basement at your grandparents’ house. The library was dark, stuffy, and it smelled of old and, quite possibly, moldy books. Hundreds of books were scattered throughout the library, unorganized and poorly taken care of, as if the library was a cemetery where used books went to rest. I had no idea how Nicole and Tessa were going to turn this dungeon into an inviting place where children want to hang out and read. However, when I walked into the library this afternoon, I was completely taken aback by the complete transformation that Nicole and Tessa had accomplished. Dawn was in the corner reading to two children, and Nicole and Tessa were helping a few children with their homework assignments. It’s hard to describe the joy that I felt seeing Dawn, Nicole, and Tessa spend time with the children and seeing their excitement after all of the hard work they put into the library. This was undoubtedly my favorite moment thus far at Liberty.

    2015 Belize Day 4 reading

    There truly are amazing things going on here at Liberty Children’s Home, and each of us is excited to have the opportunity to share and be a part of PWOB and Liberty’s vision. Little-by-little, project-by-project, PWOB and is making a difference here at Liberty. Even if the children may not remember our names at the end of the day, what matters is that we are helping to provide a better home for them so they can do what they do best: be kids. One of the questions that we were asked at an orientation before we left for Belize was, “What’s the point?” What’s the point of us being here? What’s the point of raising all of this money to come down here to work at Liberty when that same money can be used to fund local workers? Truth be told, I don’t know yet. I’m still searching for the answer. We’re all in search for the answer.

    Chris

    2015 Belize gate

    March 23, 2015: Day 3 in Belize by Ryan

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/24/2015 02:24:16 PM

    Waking shorty after our cook, Virginia, arrived to prepare breakfast—and well in advance of the rest of the group—Chris and I went for a quick run around the neighborhood. Thoroughly warned about the possibility of encountering stray dogs that would then (potentially) proceed to viciously pursue us, we armed ourselves with sticks and went on our way. Thankfully, no encounters occurred, and Chris and I made it back to the compound unscathed and just in time to enjoy a well-deserved meal with the remainder of the group.

    In our haste to get to Liberty by 9am, we nearly forgot to prepare our afternoon meal of chips and sandwiches, so the entire group pitched in to get it done as soon as possible. For the record, assembly lines are efficient for a reason. Lunch was secured in no time, and we were well on our way, anxious for what lay ahead.

    Arriving at Liberty shorty before 9am, we found ourselves with time on our hands as Cal, Dawn, and Cat worked out how to best employ us. In the meantime, the rest of us—Nicole, Tessa, Luke, Chris, and myself—occupied our few minutes of down time by either shooting hoops or indulging our inner child on the courtside swings. Soon enough, a lone boy recruited us to play a pickup game of “Rush”—a variation of world football—which he was clearly adept at, for he proceeded to shame all of us by scoring goal after goal. Though still early, the intensity of the sun was already in full force, and some of us (myself included) were soon soaked in sweat; a trend that was to go unchanged for the remainder of the day.

    After their short meeting, Cat returned to brief us on what they had in mind. We started out by walking through the recreational room and conducting a quick survey of what we thought we could do to improve the space. Once we had collected each member’s input, we moved on to the library. Deciding that the most progress could be made there, we decided to get started. However, Cal and Michael (another Liberty volunteer veteran from Seattle) showed up before we could even get started and informed us of their slight change of plans. Cat, Tessa, and Nicole would remain at the library to continue the planned refurbishment, while Luke (an aspiring electrical engineer) was chosen to join Michael on electrical related projects elsewhere. Deciding that Chris and I were little more useful as cheap manual, outdoor labor, Cal assigned us to ditch digging detail… Yay us!

    2015 Belize Digging

    After our initial walkthrough, it was clear that the library was in serious need of reorganizing (not to mention, a thorough cleaning), so Cat, Tessa, and Nicole went to work. After first conducting a thorough cleaning, they then turned to reorganizing furniture by moving tables in order to allow them to be used as desks. Once that was done, they then began the arduous task of sorting books by genre and grouping them into their own sections in the hopes of improving the organization and appeal of the library’s layout. During this time they also realized that there were numerous books that were either irrelevant for children (including a gem detailing the DOS operating system) or infested with mold from the humidity. The task has yet to be finished and will be continued tomorrow…

    2015 Belize library

    Guided by Michael, Luke worked on getting the old arcade games and mechanical rides working so the children would have more entertainment opportunities. They started out testing to see if any of the systems worked and determined that the mechanical ride worked, it just needed to be modified so that it would work without coins. Due to Michael’s skill, they were able to accomplish this. Regarding the arcade consoles, they determined that only one functioned properly, but the other has no video feed and needs to be investigated further. In addition to these tasks, they realized that the dryers on the compound were inoperable due to the lack of a 220v. They then set out to convert the nearest electrical source from the standard 110v to 220v source. Without these dryers, the staff is forced to line dry all the laundry. Although this process is is certainly more sustainable, it is nearly an impossibility during the rainy season.

    Meanwhile, Chris and I got started on the ditch. Picking up where the groundskeeper had left off, and using his work as a gauge for our own efforts, we worked to get as much of the task accomplished. Initially making quick progress, we were confident in our initial assessment of how far we would make it before the day was done. As it turns out, we were a bit overconfident. After making it some 50 feet, the soil ceased to be relatively dry and gradually began to become what can only be described as sticky. Apparently, Belizean soil is mostly clay, and moist clay at that. At about this time, we both realized that we had jumped on the opportunity to get our “He-man” on by digging the ditch without actually knowing why we were doing it. Given the exponentially increasing difficulty of the task, this question began to weigh ever more heavily on our minds. As we speculated the necessity of such a project between ourselves, Michael showed up to see how we were fairing. Hoping he could shed some light on the true purpose of our task, we decided to consult him. Luckily, given Michael’s history with Liberty, he was just the man to ask. As he explained, the amount of rain that the area receives during the rainy season, if not properly drained, can result in standing water in excess of 10 inches. We were digging a ditch that would drain that water off the compound and thereby prevent the breeding of mosquitos as well as a whole host of other negative health hazards. Our curiosity satisfied, and fortified by seeing the grander picture and significance of our efforts, Chris and I pressed on.

    2015 Belize ditch

    None of the tasks that we began today were completed. But our trip is not over, and tomorrow is a new day. One book, one electrical panel, and one swing of the pickaxe at a time, we will finish what we all came here to accomplish: making the lives of these children, and the adults charged with their care, just a little less challenging.

    Ryan

    March 21 & 22, 2015: Day 1 & 2 in Belize by Tessa

    Posted by Lauren Rochholz on 3/23/2015 03:03:03 PM

     

    We arrived at the airport in Belize City at approximately 10:30 am Belizean time.  Due to a miscommunication in arrival time our ride had been at the airport since 9:00 am, we were so thankful she waited for us.

    Day 1:

    After settling in at Breadfruit Garden, we began our first adventure. We decided that we were going to head to Altun Ha, the Mayan archaeological site in Belize City.  On the way to Altun Ha, we ran into a sign advertising the Snake Man. He had all different types of snakes native to Belize, including the Fer De Lance, green viper, and a coral snake. 

    2015 Belize snake

    Then, we arrived at Altun Ha, which consists of 13 Mayan temples and mounds. This is the site where the famous Jade Head—a priceless Mayan artifact—was found in the temple of the high priest.

    2015 Belize Aztecs

     

    The first night we had dinner at a restaurant on the ocean in Belize City. We met Ms. Agatha who operates Liberty Children’s Home and her cousin. The food and company was amazing.
    After a very long day we arrived back home around 10:30 pm to find a ginormous spider!

     

    Day 2:

     

    Today we woke up to a homemade breakfast from Virginia. She made an amazing breakfast consisting of refried beans, eggs, fry jacks, pineapple, and stew chicken. 
    After breakfast, we packed up our donations and headed to Liberty Children’s Home.  Agatha met us at the home and explained to us what they do and what there current needs are.
    Here is a little background on Liberty Children’s Home: They currently have 44 children that they are caring for; there current capacity for children is 42 but the need is too great. The children come from a variety of backgrounds including medical conditions such as cerebral palsy and HIV, abuse, neglect, and sex trafficking.  The home provides them with shelter, food, life skills, and love. They also arrange medical care and opportunities to learn how to work in the real world.
    The home has several needs that we hope to help them with:
    • Kitchen update
    • Daycare sponsorship (they currently are providing free care and education to more than 6 children, which they are losing money from)
    • Replace bathroom doors
    • Remove thatching and replace with aluminum
    • Repair pipes to the green house
    • Repair the sump pump that pumps the grey water to other areas in the home
    • A 15-passenger van to transport the children
    • Repairing the cabinets in the girls dormitory

     

    These are just some of the many needs that Liberty Children’s Home has. If you are interested in learning more, please visit their website. In addition, we created a fundraising page in case anyone is inspired and would like to donate money to the cause.  The website is on gofundme.com it is called “Liberty Children’s Home Belize”.
    While at Liberty, we met a young English lady, Alex who just arrived at the home and will be staying there for another four weeks. We decided that she should go on our second adventure with us to the Belize Zoo.

     

    2015 Belize Zoo

    This is not a typical zoo; it is more of an injured wild life refuge. All of the animals are indigenous to Belize and were either pets that people could not care for, or injured animals that were unable to be released into the wild. While there, several of us were able to have a jaguar encounter where we were locked in a small metal cage inside of the jaguar exhibit, were able to pet him and feed him. We also saw animals such as the tapir, which is Belize’s national animal, along with macaw parrots, howler monkeys, crocodiles, and more.

     2015 Belize animal

     

    After the zoo we had a great dinner that was prepared by Virginia. We had baked chicken, cooked spice rice, marinated onions and peppers, and roasted plantains.
    Stay tuned, tomorrow we will begin our first project at Liberty!

    -Tessa