How did you spend your Fourth of July? Since it is not a holiday in Belize, I worked all day at the Education Center, as usual. In the evening, however, I was able to watch celebrations of American Independence Day on the TV at home. As I watched “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS, my heart swelled with a kind of pride that can only be described as patriotism. I invited my host “mom” Miss Cas to watch with me, so together we listened while the Washington Symphony Orchestra played the 1812 Overture and fireworks exploded over the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. She told me that two of her children and two sons-in-law have served in the US military. She shared her experience of visiting the Pentagon, and proudly stated that her son even fought in Iraq. We shared a very special moment together.
Mrs. Linda Castillo (Miss Cas) and grandkids in front of their home
Shermar, Jemeiah and Miss Cas
My host family
From July 11-15 one of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, DeShawna Porter, and I helped to organize a day camp at the Stann Creek District Ministry of Education Center. The three truancy officers at the Education Center asked for our assistance and worked with us to bring the camp to life. In the morning session there were from 30 to 35 children, ages 5-9. Each day we had no idea how many students would actually show up. In the afternoon we hosted from 10 to 15 older children, ages 10-13. Our goal was to provide activities that would help to develop academic skills without repeating the same old “chalk and talk” that students would have experienced in the classroom during the school year. We taught the children new songs, played academic games, told stories, read books, wrote stories, created arts and crafts and played games and sports outside. It was exhausting, and more than a little challenging. The kids attend different schools around Dangriga, so they are accustomed to differing forms of classroom management, and we had to establish our routines and rules in a short amount of time. We also had no money to spend on materials, so we had to be creative with whatever we could find in the Ed Center to make crafts. But all in all the children enjoyed themselves, and the parents appeared to be grateful that their children were provided with structured activities to keep them busy during the summer.
DeShawna Porter playing basketball with the older camp kids
Angelita, the truancy officer, leading the kids in a game of "What time is it, Mr. Wolf?"
How many kids can we fit on a see-saw?
Miss Cas' grandkids, Jemeiah and Shemar, attended camp
Recently I purchased a bicycle, which has transformed my life. It takes so little time now to get around Dangriga, and getting back and forth from work is so much more pleasant. On Sunday, I went with my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, Cathy, Steve and Meghan on a long bike ride to explore Dangriga, but Meghan’s bike chain broke. While serving in the Peace Corps, we must learn new skills like changing a bike chain and keeping a bike in working condition.
How many PCVs does it take to change a bike chain?
Cathy, Steve and Meghan
Besides lots of bike riding and walking, I have also begun another form of exercise: zumba. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, Cathy, who was a fitness instructor back in the States, conducts a zumba class at the Alejo Beni park. She teaches us aerobic dances to Latin beats, Bollywood hits, hip hop and Belizean punta rock. It’s a helluva lot of fun for an activity that is so exhausting, but as you can see from the photos, the setting is magnificent. We are on the stage right at the seaside, with the sea breezes cooling us as we sweat. The Belizean women who have joined us are really enjoying this form of exercise, and we’re making new friends along the way.
Zumba class at Alejo Beni park
Caribbean Sea is on the right
This week I’m back in the office planning workshops and more camps. I will help facilitate a workshop on nonformal education for a women’s group called POWA (Productive Organization of Women in Action) who will soon begin training their fellow Belizeans in Family Literacy. I will also attend a two day in-service training in Belize City developed by the Ministry of Education’s Literacy Unit, in order to be able to conduct workshops in August with teachers in the Stann Creek District. Next week I will help fellow Peace Corps Volunteers in other parts of Belize with day camps and one sleep-away camp for GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) clubs. I have a lot of work ahead of me, and plenty to look forward to. I hope the summer is going well for all of my loved ones back in the States.
Relaxing in the hammocks at the Pelican on a Sunday afternoon