Mission 6 was unique among the 5 previous missions. Originally we planned on opening 6 new Resource Centers, but what was accomplished included:
- Reopening two closed community libraries, cleaning out any outdated books and provided them with contemporary ones. We also gave the libraries televisions, VCRs and VHS tapes and tables. In one, we also built shelving and provided them with chairs.
- Opening 9 computer labs in the two libraries previously mentioned, a community center and 6 schools. We would have opened another computer lab, except that the Mac computers we brought were not operational and we did not want to place them until we could install operating systems, something we could not do in Belize given the time constraints. We will be mailing the installation hardware to I.T. people in Belize will finish the job.
- Provided educational materials and supplies to six schools and one community center. At the sites we built shelving, removed outdated books and gave workshops to teachers as well as music, reading and educational programs for families.
- Gave computers to four preschools.
- Give four additional computers to the Silver Creek (Mission 3) Computer Lab and three replacement computers to Billy White (Mission 2).
Jeffery & Audrey Nagelberg
Keith & Melinda Sawyer
Mission 6, A New Start – The Team
Eleanor Carillo, Preschool Education Officer, Orange Walk District
Jane Heringhaus, Grade School Teacher, Ottawa/Glandorf Rotarian
Mel Honig, Project Coordinator, Sylvania Rotarian
Elana Honig-Juarez, Preschool Educator
Justin Kendall, Owens CC Instructor
Judy Riggle, Librarian, Oberlin Rotarian
Old and new situations
As in previous missions, an advance team arrived a week before the trainers to insure that the mission went smoothly. The team unpacks the equipment and supplies, and readies them for the communities previously chosen as Resource Center sites. During this first week, the advance team also visited several sites established during previous missions.
Visiting Former Resource Center Site
Computer centers open at night have become a magnet for some of the youths of the community and may have contributed to the theft reported in the December newsletter (youths loitering at the centers.) There were four involved in the vandalism of computers, and their identities are not known. However, one youth is in jail, and the police feel that he participated in damaging the computers. We left 3 replacement computers at the community and a new printer, but they will not be installed until security at the site is upgraded.
Silver Creek also has a similar problem of loitering, but they always have an adult (usually one of the teachers) at the computer lab at night to help insure the integrity of the site.
At another center access issues have been a continual problem. The center was not being used as much as it could be because the Community Council Chairman had the only key and he wished to be physically present when the center was open. An agreement was reached and a part of the Community Center was secured for the Resource Center with unlimited access granted to the Resource Center Board Chairperson. One day the Resource Center Board Chairperson came to open the center and found that the locks were changed and everything was taken by the Village Council President and given to the one of the local schools (there are two in the community). This action in effect closed the Resource Center and put the Resource Center Board in a very difficult situation.
A Change in Direction
It is a great responsibility for the community Resource Center Boards to keep the centers operating… maintaining equipment, raising funds, getting volunteers to conduct programs and dealing with community politics. It is for this reason and the desire to get maximum utilization of the equipment and supplies we are sending to Belize that the decision was made to change our focus. We can serve the people of Belize best by having the resources we send to be in the control of the schools located in the community.
During the mission we met with the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Education, Dr. Chris Aird, and will present him with a proposal for a joint effort to provide educational tools to the schools of Belize. The emphasis of RCI is still to support early childhood education. In future missions we will also be working in the more rural communities that do not have electricity. When they acquire electricity we will then install computer labs in these schools.
The Remainder of the Training Team Arrives
By the time the remainder of the team arrived (the beginning of the second week of the mission), the equipment and supplies had been divided and picked up the original six communities. At this time, it was decided that with a little extra effort, we could open four more centers in Orange Walk and not have a spring mission. We did open 3 more and would have opened a fourth had there not been Mac computer problems (Justin always said…”do not ever take any Macs’ under any circumstances”….). We now have 16 Mac computer systems stored at Landy’s Hardware (Orange Walk Rotarian) which we will use in a future mission.
The mission team worked tirelessly at the nine sites. This was Jane Heringhaus’ (Ottawa/Glandorf Rotarian) first trip out of country and she fit right in. Judy Riggle (Oberlin Rotarian) on her fourth trip team taught with Jane, but also worked alone at San Estevan where she re-created their library with the help of the community. Between them, they did training at 5 sites. Elana Honig was on her fourth trip and trained at 4 of the sites. It was a lot accomplished in a short period of time.