Development Instructors in The Fighting with The Poor Program at Richmond Vale Academy have the opportunity to work in the the HPP Child Aid Project in Belize.
The idea with the Child Aid project is to fight poverty hand in hand with the people of Toledo District and secure that every child can grow up to his or her fullest potential. The project will build capacity in the people in the project. The families will work with activities within 10 lines. 1,000 families will be reached directly through their enrollment in the project and many more will be reached through common activities via the schools, open days and activities in the communities.
Child Aid Toledo was launched in December 2007. Together with a dedicated staff and local and international volunteers many activities have taken place since then. The main activities have been establishment of youth clubs, construction of latrines, implementation of income generating activities, planting Moringa trees, raising chickens, organic vegetable gardens, implementation of cacao and coffee organic farming, women groups with activities to produce pineapple jam, rugs and craft, HIV/Aids awareness campaigns, construction of firewood saving stoves, Global warning courses and much more.
The Project’s situation: Belize’s population is estimated as being approximately 324,000. Belize’s small private enterprise economy is highly dependent on commodity exports, tourism, and increasingly on petroleum since an oilfield discovery in 2005 (UN, 2012; Government of Belize, MFFSD, 2012). The country’s real economic growth in recent years has not translated into tangible reduction in the country’s poverty levels. The 2009 Poverty assessment suggests that as much as 44% of the Belizean population is poor. The most significant instances of poverty and indigence are reported within rural communities, particularly in Belize’s southernmost district of Toledo (44.2% rural poverty vs. 23.7% urban poverty).
The population of Toledo is estimated at 31,000 of which 80 percent lives in rural areas. Toledo boasts an ethnically diverse population with more than 2/3 of its population representing indigenous Mayans. Its rural population is extremely dispersed. In the 1970’s, Toledo gained the title of being the forgotten District based on the seemingly slower economic development of the district. The vulnerability of district inhabitants is exacerbated by its chronic poverty. Toledo remains the poorest district in the country. In 2009, almost 65% of the population in Toledo were classified as poor; 50% considered extremely poor.
The continuing high level of poverty and increased food insecurity is expected to be exacerbated by increased climatic threats. FAO (2009) reports that the incidence of poverty in Belize is predominantly rural and small subsistence farmers exhibit the highest poverty rates. Agriculture remains the predominant economic sector of the Toledo District. Rural development in Belize is traditionally associated with agriculture development. Belize’s National Strategy for Area Based Development in Belize (2012-2030) identifies agriculture as a vehicle for rural development and poverty reduction. Agriculture accounts for over 42% of Toledo’s employed population. Agriculture is predominantly small scale and based on the milpa system, a variant of ‘slash and burn’ which the Mayans have developed over the centuries. The main cash crops are black beans, rice and corn.
The Child Aid programs works within 10 lines of action:
1. Improve the income of the family
The Child Aid program is implemented in the most affected part of the country which is Toledo District where more than 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Methods used by the Child Aid project to minimize poverty and increase the income for the family include: establishment of backyard vegetable gardens, pass on loan, training in and establishment of income generating activities, education about and promotion of sustainable farming methods and skill training programs.
2. Health including nutrition, sanitation, HIV/ Aids
Children and families in Toledo are those in the country with the highest risk for water-borne diseases because a number of households still rely on unsafe drinking water sources and pit latrines or open defecation. The area is affected by malaria and dengue fever outbreaks. Over 50% of the population in Toledo cooks on open fire which increases their risk of respiratory illnesses as well as eye diseases. Poor sanitation and health is a major obstacle for children to learn and for communities to develop. Over 40% of the children in Toledo are malnourished and affected by stunt growth. Ignorance continues to be the response towards HIV-Aids prevention and cases. Child Aid works to educate children, youth and parents on how to avoid preventable diseases and how to improve nutrition for children and adults – the use of Moringa in food preparation is spearheaded by Child Aid and most families have their own trees. Together with schools and families the project spearheads health campaigns, teach children to wash hands and brush teeth, maintain a clean environment and do other activities to improve sanitation. The community is mobilized to take the necessary measures in order to minimize malaria and dengue. Child Aid put much focus on HIV and Aids awareness.
The first years of a child’s life have a huge influence on the adult that the child will become. Further Belize is a multi-culture and multi-language country where Spanish or local languages such as Mopan Maya or Kekchi are the first or only language for many, while the official language and therefore also the language used in schools is English. 13% of the children are not passing the grades already from the first class in primary school – mostly due to language barriers. The Child Aid program mobilizes for pre-school enrollment and work together with the pre-schools in various activities. The yearly Humana summer program for pre-scholars’ is a good tradition that many look forward to.
4. Children are active in society Children and youth makes up 50% of Belize’s population
39% of the total population is below 15 years of age. As the children grow up many are faced with unemployment and an unsecured future. Children need to be heard and taken seriously. They must have a voice to be directly involved. Child Aid programs organize clubs for children and youth where the children themselves are the main actors. The project mobilizes the youth to take action about pollution, HIV and Aids, malaria, and much more.
5. Children in difficult situations
14% of Belize’s population lives in extreme poverty surviving on less than a dollar a day. Most of these extreme poor people live in Toledo District. Child Aid assists with school materials, income generating activities, food and the like. The program mobilizes communities to assist children and families in difficult situations.
Indicators show that Belize is improving, but the country still has a way to go to achieve universal primary education. 4% of children in Belize drop out of school before completing primary school and this percentage is much higher in rural Toledo alone. The repetition rate after 1st grade is 13% while it is at 8% for the rest of the years. The school system in Belize has its roots in the English school system but is highly influenced by the catholic and other churches. Child Aid makes programs with the schools which include sanitation and hygiene education, HIV/Aids training, organic vegetable production, tree production and planting and nutrition education. The project assists with renovation or beautification of the school buildings and builds playgrounds. Child Aid mobilizes teachers and youth to utilize the school facilities and teach their fellow citizen, young as well as old, to read and write.
Environmental protection is a key issue for the children’s future. Wasting our natural resources will bring major constraints to future generations. Child Aid encourages soil conservation, garbage selection, tree planting and firewood saving stoves.
8. District development
Humana People to People Belize carries out all Child Aid activities working closely with district and local partners. In this way the project receives valuable input in form of technical support and exchange of best practices. The combined actions of Child Aid are important in the development of the local communities as well as the district.
9. Culture and Communication
Belize is a multi-cultural society, but each group lives isolated from each other. To avoid racism and discrimination and to enhance a cultural foundation in each and every child, it is important that each ethnic group “understands” itself and each other. The project makes an effort in sharing culture between the different ethnic groups and at the same time unite Belizeans as one. The project gathers people for Open Sundays and other educative events.
10. Farmers Club
More than 50% of Belizeans live in rural areas and depend on farming.The trend is that farming is unpopular, and the youths are seeking to the towns where they, because of lack of work, often end up in crime. The project promotes farming and to produce food locally. The activities include conservation farming methods, crop diversification, and improved planning and budgeting. Humana People to People Belize will continue implementing Child Aid Toledo with 1,000-member families participating. Child Aid Toledo is contributing to the UN SDGs, developed in 2015 to be achieved by 2030, through activities focusing on alleviating poverty, encouraging early childhood education, gender equalities, improved water and sanitation and environmental protection.