Resource Centers International (RCI) completed its third mission this March, opening 4 new Centers in the Toledo District of Belize. The nine member mission team helped setup the centers and train community personnel in their operation.
Important contacts were established with the University of Belize, Punta Gorda campus. They would like to use the centers for student field experience in education and computer curriculums, and also to lend support to each of the communities.
The RCI website has been updated and pictures of the March 2011 mission have been posted. Click on the link to access the photos of this and our previous missions: (http://resourcecentersinternational.org/index.php?i=pictures)
The March 2011 Mission to the Toledo District
The Project Team was composed of:
- Robert Rustic: Findlay Rotary Club and advisor to the University of Findlay Rotaract Club
- Susan Schafer: Sylvania Rotary Club and Branch Manager of the Sylvania Public Library
- Mel Honig: Sylvania Rotary Club and project manager
- Kara Elling: University of Findlay
- Emily McMains: University of Findlay
- Jeanne Rustic: Trainer and advisor
- Susan Honig: Occupational Therapist, Mt Sinai Hospital
- Justin Kendall: Owens Community College Computer Club
- Danny McCormick: Owens Community College Computer Club
On March 6th an advance team of four (Mel, Sue H, Justin and Danny) arrived in the Big Falls area to help with the distribution of equipment and supplies. After clearing customs, all the equipment and supplies were stored in the Silver Creek Community Center. Everything was divided into four parts and the four Q’eqchi speaking Mayan communities of Silver Creek, San Miguel, San Felipe and Santa Anna picked up their consignment by March 7th. During these two days we visited all the sites to:
- Decide where the communities wanted to put the computers so we could start work on installing the electrical upgrades.
- Reestablish contact with key personnel
- Set up a plan for training and meetings during the week
On Sunday, March 8th Mel and Justin drove to the airport to pick up the remaining members of the team.
On the way to the airport we visited with Lilly, Board President of the center at St Margarets, and dropped off exercise mats, games and toys. After picking up the remaining team members on our return we stopped by the Blue Hole on to visit with Job, the Board President of the Armenia center. We then stopped by the home of Dr. Toni Baker, University of Belize professor, to catch up on how things were going at the Salvapan Resource Center. These three centers (Armenia, St Margarets and Salvapan) were started during our first mission.
On Monday we:
- Started training at the four sites
- Started meetings with the high school students and Resource Center Board members
- Continued upgrading electricity
After the computers were installed, computer training started for the high school students, adults in the community, and community members that would be operating the centers. Initially we were not going to install any computers in San Miguel because they had an internet center. When we found out it cost $1.50 USD an hour to use the computers, we decided to divert one computer from each of the other centers to San Miguel. This way the community would have three computers to use at no charge. Training and meetings continued throughout the week. Bob and Mel meet twice with Stanley Nicholas, Dean of the University of Belize, Punta Gorda campus. Negotiations are now in process to have the Resource Centers used as educational learning sites for University of Belize students studying education and computer science. Faculty will also be able to use the centers as study sites towards obtaining advance degrees. In turn the communities will gain valuable support and expertise in operating and using the centers to best advantage.
On Thursday Mel, Sue H and Justin drove to four other sites to deliver equipment and supplies. At Armenia, we met with Elsa, the Peace Corps Volunteer who is helping run the center. We had dropped off exercise flooring on Sunday and wanted to make sure she got them; and also to visit and see how things were progressing. In a brief stop at Belmopan, we purchased new printer-copiers at the Angelus Press for each of the new sites. We very much appreciate the fact that the Angelus Press has been giving us a discount on our purchases.
We then continued onto Billy White, Duck Run I and Duck Run III, in the Spanish Lookout area, to drop off computers (Billy White), repair computers (Billy White and Duck Run I), drop off books in Spanish (Billy White and Duck Run III), and also drop off exercise flooring at all three sites.
By Thursday evening most of our work had been completed, and Friday morning most of us went into Punta Gorda. Bob and Mel had a meeting with University of Belize personnel, and Kara, Emily, Sue S. and Jeanne went to see the picturesque seaside town. Justin, Dan and Sue H. continued computer training at the centers that morning. Friday afternoon we all went to one of the many Mayan sites in the area and had a comprehensive tour of the site, complete with stories of Mayan folklore by our knowledgeable guide. That night, while Sue H. and Danny were busy with computer training at San Felipe and Santa Anna, the remainder of the team was treated to a going away party at Silver Creek. Traditional dancing, food, and presents for team members made it a memorable evening and a pleasant way to end the weeks work.
The next mission is tentatively scheduled for December, 2011. Before this mission can come to fruition several things must happen:
- Of primary importance is financing. With the loss of subsidized
- shipping it has become very difficult to finance the objectives of the project. The cost of one container shipment to Belize is approximately $7,000 USD.
- We must find a way to safely store equipment and supplies in Belize, and send only those things that are absolutely necessary for completion of the mission.
- We need a source of up to date computer systems.
- Four new sites need to be chosen. Tentatively they will be in the Punta Gorda area of the Toledo District in communities of varying ethnicity: Garifuna, East Indian, Mayan and mixed. This will entail another trip to Belize, probably in September.
- A volunteer team to be part of the December mission must be selected.
Evaluating Past Performance
Since our first mission in March 2010, when we opened three centers, we have completed two more missions opening four new sites in each mission. The centers were opened in a shorter time frame with less money spent each time, excluding the cost of shipping the equipment and supplies from the United States to Belize. We have made many important contacts that have in turn supported our work. They are the
- University of Belize
- Belizean Government, and Belize Natural Energy Trust
- Rotary Clubs in Belize
- Peace Corps, and
- The Word at Work.
Sustainability has been good. All the sites remain operational, computers and equipment in place and communities still supportive of the program.
There are still many in Belize who would benefit from having a Resource Center in their community. To find out how you can help Click onhttp://resourcecentersinternational.org/index.php?i=get_involved!
-Mel Honig, Newsletter Editor