Blue Creek is a Belize village made up of indigenous Mopan and Kekchi Maya numbering about 300 people. The community consists of thatch huts bordering both sides of a beautiful clear stream emerging from the surrounding thick jungle. If you follow the river upstream for about 20 minutes, you will reach a beautiful Hokeb Ha Cave which is Mayan for “water comes out”. The cave is also known as Blue Creek Cave and has recently been discovered by the visiting tourists, becoming the biggest attraction of the village, although the cave has been known and sacred to the Maya for over 2000 years. The color of the blue-green water where Maya women beat their laundry on the smooth stones gave the village its name.
The creek and its surroundings have been studied by thousands of college students and professors over the last 44 years as part of the IZE Blue Creek Rainforest Research Station located halfway to the cave entrance. One of those students doing research was Tim Sise as part of a Siena College group led by Professor Ed LaRow and his Tropical Biology studies. “I was on a basketball scholarship at Siena College and Doc LaRow did a great thing putting together the trip to British Honduras (Belize) back in 1981. I was a Biology Major so it was an elective and covered as part of my scholarship. My wife Kerry points to that trip as the seed of my wanderlust.”
In 1994 Titanic Explorer Bob Ballard built the Canopy Walk in Blue Creek. It was constructed as part of Ballard’s Jason Project that he held there, and was designed to develop a new science curriculum for US Middle School Students in an effort to stimulate science and math as a career track. The Canopy Walk was utilized by thousands of researchers until it was destroyed in late 2001 by Hurricane Iris which tore through the village. Naturalist Fred Dodd of IZE who first met Sise back in 1980 contacted him in late 2013 about developing new programs that would help bring the student visitors back to Blue Creek. Together they focused on rebuilding of the Canopy Observation System but this time they were using the new techniques of connecting observation decks using zip lines and covering over 2 miles of the jungle. Construction of the Blue Creek Canopy Tour began on January 18, 2014.
Both Sise and Dodd strive to make their projects beneficial not only to the US students, but to the community of Blue Creek as well.
One of the facilities destroyed by Hurricane Iris was Blue Creek RC School, which at the time consisted of thatch roofed buildings. While in 2003 the Government of Ireland in conjunction with the village built a new school, constructed from concrete and steel to withstand future storms, the village of Blue Creek did not yet have electricity so the only light for the students was from opening the wooden shutters that covered the window openings.
In August of 2014 the Village Alcalde (Mayor) Thomas Mas who helped build the Canopy Course asked Sise to look into bringing electricity to the school and to help provide lights for the over 75 students that were scheduled to start school in September. “I am teacher and could not believe that there was no electricity at the school. I had to figure out something.”
Sise reached back to his Siena Basketball days and contacted three former point guards: Dinny Cahill, Tommy Roginski and Johnny Williams. “I played the inside position and learned back then that you feed the guards the rebound and they feed you when you are on the post. I remember watching Dinny beat the odds when playing against Canisius and Larry Fogel and thinking I was fortunate to be on teams and play with Tom and John. That’s why I thought to reach out to them to help this thing happen.”
Sise had the construction crew already there in Blue Creek as they were building the office for the Blue Creek Canopy Tour but he needed help to pay for the materials to bring the power from the road to the school and install plugs and lights. The main line needed to be buried since it crossed the school playground area. “Those guys really came through and now the kids in Blue Creek have power, light and best of all, if you ask the kids, is the new electric fans. This was the greatest assist those guys ever gave!”
Tim Sise continues to work in Blue Creek Belize and has started training villagers there as part of the Blue Creek Canopy Tour in hopes of providing jobs and growing the local economy. Recently, he’s funded building of a concrete sign by the highway, pointing to Blue Creek in yet another attempt to bring more visitors to the village, whose inhabitants are starting to depend on the tourist traffic.
Child Aid Toledo is Humana People to People Belize project in small communities all over the Toledo district. The project supports local economy by helping to establish Women’s Groups, Farmers’ Cooperatives and income generating projects for single families. By supporting self-sustainability and entrepreneurship Humana’s projects show long-term results in the communities.
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