March 23, 2015: Day 3 in Belize by Ryan

Posted by Lauren Rochholz on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 2:24 PM PDT

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!

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…

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.

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.