Shoulder to shoulder experience as a volunteer

6-women-inside My name is Lina, I am a fine and visual artist and this story begins in Bogotá – Colombia.
Service Period Red Bank / Belize

My name is Lina, I am a fine and visual artist and this story begins in Bogotá – Colombia.

Going from home to work and from work to home, I accumulated hours and hours of daily thoughts and worries for several years. What I had not noticed was that they related not only to my life, but also to other beings, and I said to myself one day: "myself, you are getting very stressed by the problems and situations of other people, look what you can do with that".

Despite being working with something that I loved: arts and communities, I made the decision to change, as much as possible, certain aspects of my life related to the way I was affected by the lifestyle of the city and what it implies to live in it. Everything began to take shape when doing research on the Internet about volunteering programs that allowed me to do work to help improve the quality of life of people in vulnerable situations and learn from them.

Making the decision was not easy, it meant leaving the family, leaving friends, and in turn, getting away from the pressures and demands of a globalized world, as it says, stop waiting that all the aunts keep asking me why I have not married at 31 years old and why I do not have children.

The first stop was Richmond Vale Academy in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, this beautiful island is located in the Caribbean and has a population of approximately 100,000 inhabitants. 

 As a first part of the program there is online studies in the school about global warming, organic agriculture, permaculture, political science, economic development, global problems, etc. There is no community work with the inhabitants there, but certain skills are acquired for working with them, for example, knowing how to use a machete, a shovel, how to bake bread, fundraising, building weekends, being teachers for the one month team, hosting school groups and working with the youth camp (DRET - MCT) and taking part in making a classroom in Petit Bordel, painting murals, etc.

At the same time I had the good fortune to meet Jitka, my teammate, who is from the Czech Republic and is also a fine artist.

After this training period we arrived at Red Bank on September 21st of 2018, it is a Mayan village located in the south of Belize. Our period of service in this country was full of situations and challenges that allowed us to see the inequality that this population lives. Health, education, corruption, gender equity, historical legacy of colonization and loss of their cultural traditions are the most evident problems, which have increased as the population continues growing.

 Knowing, visiting and creating a relationship with the inhabitants of Red Bank, and organizing our house to have a meeting space took approximately a month and a half. During those first days we visited several families and we were able to see the projects that we could carry out.

Our House

 Our priority was always the children due to the high percentage of mistreatment we observed, but in parallel we also worked with the young people, with women and some men from the village.

Our Projects and Highlights in Red BankEnter heading here...

 1) Spreading permaculture and organic agriculture.

- Building a school garden and create an organic farming kids club
- Men´s organic farming group
- Women´s group home gardens, including single mothers.
- Our own home garden

2) Playground at school and the importance of playing during childhood.
- Fundraise online
- Playground building with recycle materials

3) Work with families.
- Presentations about the benefits of coconut and how to prepare oil from this fruit
- Embroidery workshops
- Creation of a Folkloric Group
- Contact and writing letters to the Department of Environment to clean the dumpsite

4) Involving the young people of Red Bank to work for their community.
- Cleaning the health center
- School Garden building
- Playground building
- Preparation for family day and football marathon (Open day for the community)
- Help building our own home garden

5) Campaigns
- Hand washing in the school
- Hygiene and oral care in the school
- Clean up day and garbage collection in the village
- Mosquito control in the village

6) English classes
- Lessons for Guateman Maya immigrants

7) Family Day and Football Marathon
- Open Day for the community with games and food

8) Communication with the new volunteers.
-Skype meetings about the projects or questions that they had

Since we arrived in Belize we had the support of Pantaleón Escobar, the project manager of the Child Aid project from Humana People to People, he accompanied us throughout our process as volunteers: since we got off the plane, during the planning of projects to execute, even in aspects of health and well-being for us.

We also had the support of Staff the Humana, especially from the area leaders, with advices about how to work with the community or in the execution of some projects. We had weekly meetings with the entire team.

And to finish…

Red Bank does not have the basic support from the government in basic social aspects of health, education and culture, this is evident in indigenous communities that live there daily. Clearly, it is the result of a capitalist system where the living conditions of the population never prevail, but big companies are given primacy in their eagerness to control the world economy by centralizing capital in oligopolies. Examples of this can be found in the Banana plantations of Belize where we could see how mothers and fathers work for a ridiculous salary in strenuous hours for foreign multinationals, creating a whole cycle of poverty where they are not present for their children because they have to work to pay for their education, by the way very poor quality education; they are exploited, drug addiction and alcoholism becomes part of daily life, interpersonal relationships are broken, the church becomes the only place where they can be heard, corruption exists even in the smallest villages, there´s plastic pollution everywhere and monocultures are full of chemicals. It is simply a new form of colonization, they are still suffering the consequences of slavery heritage by states that enjoy the profits produced by the "poorest" countries since centuries.

As agents of change, our only way to fight this system is through projects made with the heart, but that provide the necessary tools so that the inhabitants of Red Bank could have a broader awareness of the problems that afflict them as a community, and in turn, work as a team to solve them.

The words fall short to describe what this experience in Belize meant, I will never forget this beautiful country, much less Red Bank, the village that welcomed us for 6 months! our beloved village! We will miss it very much. It is not an easy process, but the important thing is not to give up even when the culture and emotions can be overwhelming. There will always be a place to generate changes in small things, but very significant for some people. This was also a personal journey and it was important to learn from others, it brought me a pleasant experience of the possibility to replicate this in my country and carry on in contributing something to this world in a positive way, thinking about the people and the environment.
The fastest 18 months of my life
The young generation in the Caribbean ready for cl...