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Day 6, 7 & 8: Belize Healthcare, Development & Service (Spring Break 2019)

These final days of ours in Belize have been a wonderful mix of hard work and well-earned fun!  

On Day 6 (March 14, 2019), we continued with our school visits.  We facilitated health education sessions and offered health screenings for faculty and staff at the RC School in San Antonio.   

Leading a health education session with the students

Post-session review and discussion

During recess and in between the sessions, our students enjoyed some volleyball and time with the kids. 

Over the lunch break, our students set up for the free health screenings for the school's faculty and staff.

After our morning school visit, we took a tour of James Farm, owned by a local family in San Antonio.  Zari Newman '21 shared her experience of the visit:

"We met up again at the San Antonio community center, and the vans took us to James Farm.  We got to see the huge water tower that helps bring water to San Antonio village.  We walked further into what seemed like a never ending bush of green, before reaching a small body of water filled with little orange tilapia fish that we fed tortillas to.  A few feet further after that, we were at James Farm.  The people who lived there chopped up coconuts for all of us, and we drank the refreshing coconut water and ate the juicy flesh inside.  Next they showed us where they harvested their coffee beans and let us grind them up.  The second those roasted beans split open, the smell of coffee grounds filled the air, and we closed our eyes to smell it better.   

When your put creamer into real homegrown coffee, it goes from a rich brown/black color to murky gray.  I hesitantly took my first sip, and MMMMM it was so good!  Hands down the most delicious coffee to ever touch my tongue.  I'm not even exaggerating, it was so good- you can ask Micah!

We all sat around James Farm, coffee in one hand and coconut biscuits in the other while the sun sunk lower into the horizon."

The San Antonio Community Center area, where we spent many hours during our workshop sessions.
Group photo in front of the Community Center!
Fresh coconuts!  Refreshing on a hot day! 
Grinding coffee beans the traditional Mayan way!

Enjoying the smooth and rich flavored home grown coffee along with coconut cookies!
As Day 6 was a scorching hot day and our students had been working hard, we decided to surprise the kids with fun field games, which included playing with water balloons.  As Emily Cho '20 described:

"The heat of the day was brought to an abrupt end when the trip leaders whipped out bucket after bucket of water balloons. My victims: Noah, Kelly, Micah, Jordan, Brian, Hadyn, Thalia, Taylor, Rafa. Nobody was safe. I'm so lucky to be here with all of these people, there’s no other group that I would like to pelt water balloons at....I mean travel to Belize with :).  All jokes aside, this activity was just one of many that made me so grateful to have a wonderful mix of friends. I’ve learned so much about healthcare from the training, home visits, and vital sign work, but what really made this so much fun was the dynamic that exists between these people. It’s the fun, silly moments like the water balloon fight that make me so grateful for my peers here. I’ve made lifelong friends. Viva la Belize!"

Having a good laugh!

Playing field games!
Bonded after good old fashioned fun and games!

On Day 7 (March 15, 2019), we continued with our final set of home visits in Cristo Rey. 

Waiting to set out for our final set of home visits
After the home visits, we returned to have lunch at our homestays.

Plating the food for lunch at a homestay!
We then set out for a trip to the city of San Ignacio for ice cream, bubble tea, and a little shopping.

Taylor Hough '21 shared her thoughts:

"Today brought the last of home visits and although that was sad to realize we are nearing the end of our trip... we had an amazing time. Singing in the car. Dancing. Shopping. Laughing. I can ask for a better group of people to be here with and I loved shopping in the markets today. I know tomorrow will bring more new experiences and even more fun. I’ve made so many friendships and new connections here. Thank you Belize."

Enjoying some bubble tea!
Olivia Hadyn Phillips '21 similarly shared:

"After some (more like a horrendous amount) money spent at San Ignacio market, we all piled into a cramped van. At first, it was cramped physically. But as the car ride continued our spirits upstaged the lack of space and the car seemed to thrive off of our energy. The nostalgic singing (screaming) of old Disney movies and TV shows was an incredible way to end our third and successful round of home visits. Being in Belize has been surreal, and I think a vast majority of us have not yet comprehended that this incredible journey is about to end. So, in our last attempts of revival and memory making (whilst on a sugar high from sinfully refreshing ice cream), we all held hands and screamed into each others ears with utmost love for one another. Viva la Belize!"

Getting ice cream at Western Dairies in downtown San Ignacio!
Day 8, our final full day in here in Belize, has finally come.  Clara Wang '21 provides some insight into our final day as well as a reflection on what she will remember:

"The Health Fair in San Antonio brought the culmination of our time in Belize.  While I'm excited to go home, I think some part of me will always miss our time together.  I've gotten so used to seeing the beautiful views of Belize every time I glance out of a window, used to listening to singing in cramped vans, used to the easy conversations, friendly people and the exquisite food that always make you reach for seconds.  Thank you Belize for the wonderful memories.  I'll always remember my time here."

Setting up for our final Health Fair in the San Antonio Community Center.

Brian Ricker '20 beautifully offers his final thoughts on the program: 

"Belize was a trip that not only has taught me the extreme importance of public health care/education in developing countries, but also has shaped my beliefs and understanding of cultures that differ from my own. In first arrival, I was excited to learn about health care, but was not excited to live without air conditioning, phones, and hot showers. I’ve been happier, healthier, and more productive without all 3. Never thought I would be eager to read in free time or nap in the absolute middle of the day. Never would I have imagined I could be totally comfortable standing up in front of twenty kids and teach them about health care. Never could have imagined I’d be the cause of so many smiling faces, and be able to actually help complete strangers. Thank you Belize for teaching me that never is a stupid word."

It is hard to believe that we are in our final hours of our program in Belize.  Tonight we will wrap up our program with an awards ceremony, dinner and bon fire!  Then tomorrow, we will head to the airport early in the morning and will begin making our way to our respective homes!  Belize has taught us all so much, and it truly has been an experience we will remember for years to come!

Day 4 & 5: Belize Healthcare, Development & Service Program (Spring Break 2019)

Days 4 & 5 did not disappoint!  These days were focused on continuing with our home visits, preparing for our school health education visits, and working with kids and teachers at a local school.  We also visited the San Antonio Women's Coop and learned about their efforts to preserve traditional Mayan arts and crafts.   

Ayleen Cameron '20 offered a reflection on her homestay:

"The trip so far has been eventful and eye-opening in ways I never would have anticipated. Being in a homestay has given me the opportunity to connect on a personal level with the residents of the San Antonio community.  Lunchtime conversations with my host mother, Juanita, have been revelatory toward the current political situation between Belize and Guatemala. The upcoming referendum has practically divided the country in two: a fact I wouldn't have realized otherwise. Understanding and exploring such issues in a homestay setting affords a unique experience that could not be replicated in a hotel. I was initially nervous about being in a homestay, but ultimately am glad that I was given the opportunity."

A banner advocating for a 'Yes' vote for the upcoming referendum

Here are some of our other students' reflections from the past couple of days:

"Home visits bring many unexpected people and things. In Clarrisa Falls, we met a man and his family who made giant, wooden, handcrafted marimbas. He loved talking about how he made the instruments. He also told all of us about the different natural remedies people in the area use when they are under the weather. It’s very interesting to hear how proud people are about their way of life." - Noah Babala-Money ’20 (Reflecting on his experience with home visits from Day 4, March 12, 2019)

"Yesterday, we went to our second home visits. We also spent the evening playing games. I think most of the people on this blog talk about how wonderful these past few days have been. And although everything on this trip has been eye-opening and wonderful, there are some rough patches that we faced. The first day here, we learned about the stages of culture shock that we might experience during the trip. The first two have been our "honeymoon days." My peers and I enjoyed the food, the games, the activity, and even the heat.  But yesterday was different.  Most of us, including me, were very tired and drained. The night after our first home visit, I learned a bit of the Spanish language to help me start conversations with the patients we meet. During our second home visit, I realized how difficult the language barrier really is, and how much it affected the things I do, and how I do them. I couldn't really communicate with the patients as great as my peers, and that really frustrated me. Turns out, I wasn't the only one who felt this way.  In addition to this, the heat was getting to all of us.  Others felt very nervous about having to teach the kids the next day, and staying energized when talking to them. Overall, our group reached the "low point" that our team leaders told us to expect. Today, however, things are starting to go uphill again. The heat was better, the Women's Coop was amazing, and playing tag with the kids helped uplift our spirits. Although the low points seem very upsetting, none of us would trade not coming here in exchange. Ultimately, this trip has been an experience that I never want to forget.
-Micah Purba '20 (Reflecting on her experiences between day 4 & 5, March 12 & 13, 2019)

Emma Chaffee ‘21 shares about our experience today at a local elementary school (Day 5, March 13, 2019):

"Today we all went to a school nearby with kids ranging in age from grade K-7th. We all had different presentations about Oral health, Hand washing, Nutrition, and Lice. We all had a blast teaching kids about these topics and playing with them a little. We all had so much fun with the kids. After teaching them we then gave screenings to all of the teachers so to practice for the upcoming health fair at the San Ignacio market. Tomorrow we head to a different school to teach more kids and give more screenings to teachers." 

"Hand-washing is never an interesting topic, and my somewhat unprepared group were worried about our results and being able to engage these kids. However, as we entered the classroom about 25-30 kids swarmed us four unexpected teenagers, and wrapped their arms around us. It's impossible to capture the joy of these kids with just words. I thought I would be not as great at presenting and having a good time while doing it, but my experience with theater really came through on this one. I was so much better at it then I thought I would be, and they all loved me. I'm nervous for tomorrow considering were are talking about lice to the older kids, and I hope they don't think it is cheesy and lame or are creeped out by it. I really hope that they will show similar enthusiasm as the previous groups of kids, but we will have to see what tomorrow brings! Working with kids is rewarding in itself." -Brian Ricker '20 

"Today we had school visits, where we presented about different topics: mine was about hand washing. Even though, it was something we had to do it was not hard at all. That is all because of the kids. They were so nice, understanding and excited with our presence. When my team and I entered the kindergarten class all the kids stood up and hugged us, not allowing us to move. During their recess, 10 kids came up to me and hugged my legs not allowing me to move, leading for them and me to fall in the ground. What made this day so memorable is the connections I made with the little kids. They were so open from moment we stepped in their classroom to the moment we left the school gates. Even though we are supposed to greatly impact their lives with these presentations, I believe that they caused a great impact on my life."  - Rafaela Oliveira' 20

In addition to their service experiences, students have been enjoying the opportunity to build new friendships, as Thalia Schodel‘21 shared:

"Today after the school visits, my roommate (Clara Wang ’21) and I planned to take a visit to a nearby homestay. Instead, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and then talked about the complexities of life and various other things. The wonderful afternoon ended with Clara reading me a book. For the rest of the afternoon we visited the Women’s Coop and participated in activities that they partake in." 

Olivia Hadyn Phillips '21 writes about our experience at the San Antonio Women's Coop:

"The group gathered under the welcoming shade (from the blistering sun) at the Women's Coop after some lunch and rest. Although some groggy spirits arrived, by the end, all were energetically laughing and playing hand games (while others sported their new bracelets from the gift shop). During our visit at the Women's Coop, we were able to learn to make handmade corn tortillas and pottery. The tortillas were an all around favorite, as not only were we able to watch and have a hands-on experience for grinding the corn, but also being able to cook and enjoy our oblong shaped 'tortillas.' With an addition of coconut oil and salt, it seemed that everyones stomach had emptied and we were all ravishing for more. Alas, there was a time constraint -- therefore the group changed topics to pottery making. All sat and watched as a woman who worked at the Coop calmly crafted a bowl from a mound of clay. We were all entranced and in a mystical haze when watching -- she lifted and centered the clay and discovered the bowl within the clay round. Some lucky students (including myself) were able to then make our own bowl. Personally, it felt like second nature as my pottery background seemed to seep through my fingers as I carefully crafted my small, more tea-cup like, bowl from the wheel. However, some other students had some difficulty, either underestimating or overestimating their strength. Nonetheless, out of roughly seven students, we had three student bowl made. The hours sped quickly as we cheered on our peers and laughed with the most wide and genuine smiles on our faces. I think we speak for everyone when I say "we don't want to leave Belize!""

Haydn trying her hand at grinding corn in preparation for corn tortillas!

We are half way through the program at this point, but there is still much to experience together!  Look forward to our next post in a few days!