The first six months taught me to be open minded. I have realised that there is a history I have not been told, which steers the way the world turns today. It was an intensive online study period, which among all the information about worlds economics, globalisation, climate change or health and nutrition made me understand that it is up to me to choose what I want to believe in and support. The theoretical studies combined together with practical permaculture gardening activities and food preservation actions have prepared me for my time in Belize. Of course living in a community with students from all over the world was exciting but also very challenging. There were many lessons from our everyday interactions.
Next six months, which I spent working on projects in a Maya community in Belize were a mixture of everything, you name it. I don't think I have ever laughed as much as with our Belize youth group, I have also never felt so exhausted, frustrated, motivated, helpless, optimistic, .... all at the same time. Working with women's, men's, youth or children groups was very demanding. Every little achievement was what kept me going, every downfall was what made me look for different solutions. Learning that everyone behaves according to their context, the way they have been brought up and the conditions they live in, was a big lesson for me.
One of my big discoveries from living in a remote village in Belize was the never ending use of a bicycle. It can take you anywhere but that's not where it's features end, it can also transport almost anything. Everyday shopping where eggs turned out to be the most difficult load, large wooden poles for building a garden fence, cow manure to make the new school garden flourish, bags of cement for a playground construction, metal rods to make foundation for little house with a slide, sacks of oranges and watermelons to sell as a fundraise, hundreds of toothbrushes for children oral care campaign, mosquito nets for every household in the village,.... even though some rides turned out to be a bit of a disaster, our bikes were truly like extra team members in all our projects.
The last six months seemed slow and relaxed compared to the busy time in Belize but yet, they've made everything come together. I have finished studies about the reasons of poverty, passing the last exam was so exciting, but it wasn't the end. Whether it is from interesting conversations, from working in a community garden or through teaching new teams, I have realised that knowledge is a crucial tool which needs to be shared and passed on over and over.
Learning never stops, but it was also time to pass on as much as I could. Part of the program was to lead a One Month team of international students. It was an interesting challenge from which I have learned not only how to organise a group of people but also how to organise myself. This came in handy, although on a bigger scale, in our final project. My teammate and I have painted a street mural with the help of local children. Together with the kids we have chosen a topic, which in our case was cultural heritage. The Saint Vincent culture has been forgotten and mislead during and past the colonial times and the indigenous Garifuna heritage seems to be dying out. Our aim was to create a reminder of the importance of embracing ones roots to understand ourselves, each other and to become a strong united community.
Fun is important, but I believe that it was the feelings of being useful and being able to make a change, however big or small in our complicated world that made my 18 months program fly by. There is still so much more to do but we all have a new paths to go. I have no doubt that Richmond Vale Academy together with Humana People to People Belize had prepared me for a journey which is worth the travel.