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#18173 - 04/26/04 04:07 PM from Belize Times
SP Daily Offline
WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY

Things are not always what they seem. Sometimes you need to take a closer look at something to determine exactly what is going on. In the case of some areas of the Stann Creek Valley you may need to actually take a walk through it to know what the situation is really like.

When we drive or ride past the Stann Creek Valley we see quaint houses along the highway and lots of citrus groves. The area actually looks prosperous. The villages in the Stann Creek Valley are to us near or in the citrus belt of the country. People must be living prosperous lives we assume. But such is not the case with Middlesex and many other villages in the area.

On Monday of this week I was in Middlesex and I took a walk through the community along with the Principal of St. Augustine’s School. She is very familiar with the area and was able to take me around to see things I would never imagine were so when driving on the Highway. We visited several homes and talked to the people both parents and children alike. It is a sad, sad story.

Even at the school one could sense the desperate poverty of the area. The teachers are doing their best to cope with a situation that is larger than the school itself. It would appear to me that education is not the priority of some of the parents from the village. This is not because they don’t consider education important but their socio-economic situation forces them to take the hard decisions in regards to the welfare of their families.

There is extreme poverty in the area. Sure some of the people work but the types of jobs available are mostly seasonal and low paying as most of the people are unskilled laborers. Whatever they earn is not sufficient to cover their basic needs. People in the village are living in substandard conditions. These people are extremely vulnerable as they are absolutely dependent on minimal cash income, little of which they realize. One could sense the frustration of the people while talking to them. Some are open and explain their troubling situation while others become defensive which is normal as nobody wants to be seen as poor.

The children are the ones who suffer the most from this poverty stricken area. For them going to school is not a normal exercise. Many of them go to school without shoes and some don’t have adequate clothing to go to school in. Worst of all however, many of them go to school without food. I was there during lunch hour to observe the children. Some have just tortillas or plain rice. There is not even an egg to go along with it. The teachers have started a school feeding program to help these children have at least one proper meal per day. Even so some can’t afford the $1 per meal especially those with five or six children going to school. That is like $25 to $30 per week from their household budget; something they just cannot afford. Some of the teachers, 6 women, God bless their souls; take money out of their own pockets to pay for some of the children because the situation is breathtakingly painful.

I was there on the first day of the school after the Easter Holidays and in just two classes, 10 children were absent. The principal tells me that they have a problem with a high rate of absenteeism. During our walk through the village we went to look for the absent children to see why they were not at school. Some of them did not go to school because they did not have clothes. Simple as that. Others did not go to school because their parents were not at home and the older ones had to take care of the younger ones and none of them were to go to school alone. A group of siblings we found at home without their parents had not yet eaten for the day. The parents, it seems, usually leave their children at home to go look for work during the day. The main excuse the parents give for not sending their children to school is that they are “sick.” But it is obvious that the children are not sick. This is what the cycle of poverty looks like. The poor children who need to break out of poverty have less chances of doing so by not going to school but they cannot go to school because they are already too poor.

Of course there are also the social ills that sometimes accompany a desperate situation. There is alcohol abuse and domestic violence. There are some cases of incest and teenage pregnancy and crimes such as theft and burglary. The lack of employment simply aggravates the situation.

The situation can be rationalized as nobody likes to be put in a “bad” light but at the end of the day the situation remains until something is done about it. It is my opinion that the valley communities need special attention especially as the citrus market is shifting. The repercussions of the shift of the citrus industry are affecting poor people in ways that we are not even aware of.

What I observed in Middlesex was heart wrenching. The cut back in social spending that the IMF is proposing is in no way going to help these beautiful but poor children. What we need is an increase in social spending, not only in buildings but in direct support for the children who need it most. Make going to school fun for them and not a harrowing experience as they are faced with now. The schools in urban centers take a lot of things for granted but if you only knew how schools, teachers and children are coping in desperate situations in the rural areas of the country you would be ashamed of your waste and some of your middling complaints. You don’t know what it is really like until you have walked through the Valley. Been there.

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#18174 - 04/26/04 11:31 PM Re: from Belize Times
klcman Offline
Thanks Jesse, having seen this firsthand I know it isn't journalistic hype. It often makes me sad that so many of those going to the more common destinations in BZE, Yes AC included, have no idea what the hell is happening in the REAL Belize frown frown frown
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But then what do I know, I am but a mere caveman

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#18175 - 04/27/04 02:03 AM Re: from Belize Times
NYgal Offline
Klc...I wholeheartedly agree.
I had at one time tried to say something similar but I was all but told I know nothing.

I give, I donate and I care about mainland. You could cry watching these people try. BUT, they are happy proud people. Not begging or waiting for handouts. They just go on and live with what they are familiar.

Life is not all just Ambergris Caye, sorry frown

Thank you Jesse for posting this article.

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#18176 - 04/27/04 02:37 AM Re: from Belize Times
calypso Offline
It a good article, but true and real in Belize. Inland Belize is far different and the lifestyle is different as compare to Ambergris Caye. The living condition in some of the villages are sad and difficult in Belize. I know because I have volunteered in the local communities several times. However, the local human development department in the villages or towns do provide the local people with whatever training or assistant, but it depend on how much effort is put into helping these people....
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I like the new feature of the message board..It is a more appropriate format for safe and friendly discussions..Good luck, and hope everything works out for the best, Marty..Thanks...

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#18177 - 04/27/04 11:47 AM Re: from Belize Times
dbdoberman Offline
I suppose so much good works happen on AC because of the numbers of expats who live there, and the number of tourists who return there. Too bad there isn't some way to spread that wealth of giving to the other parts of Belize -- the part that remains invisible to tourists for the most part, especially to those who never go further than AC. What can we do to help? I remember when alot of folks on the board was bringing school supplies with them to donate to the school on AC, there was somebody who asked that the school in Dangriga be remembered. It would be a help if there was donation boxes at International Airport for kid's clothes & school supplies - that could be disbursed from there by an organization. Things that would not need to be declared to customs, as they should be considered assistance to the country. It seems like such a small & easy thing to implement, and I can guarantee that the majority of folks would bring something for those boxes.

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#18178 - 04/27/04 01:56 PM Re: from Belize Times
M-A Gaffney Offline
"djones" who frequents this board is a Dangriga Town Council member. She may have some ideas. Debbie, you out there?

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#18179 - 04/27/04 08:25 PM Re: from Belize Times
ckocian Offline
You'd have to get past the officials who don't want Belize to be seen as a "poor" country that can't take care of its people (it can't, but never mind that.) People-to-people efforts are much more effective than relying on what would be, in effect, the red tape route.

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#18180 - 04/28/04 08:33 AM Re: from Belize Times
kerry Offline
i am guilty of doing the same thing as dbdoberman mentioned above.....there are other parts of belize that do need assistance....i am moving to corozal town in june, and would like to find some way to volunteer, with the needs of that area....any and all suggestions where i could help, just let me know....i'm sure once i get there,i'll be steered in the right direction....see you soon.....Kerry

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#18181 - 04/28/04 03:38 PM Re: from Belize Times
bywarren Offline
There was a similar discussion to this some time back. I do not have the time to search for it right now, fishing and diving with the whale sharks, but if someone could find it I think you all will find it very interesting and enlightening. It was a quoted news paper article by a Belizean explaining why he did not consider himself to be "poor". He related how his life was "rich" by the standards he considered important. Not by having all the monetary and material things that some judge by. It would be worth it if someone could find it.

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#18182 - 04/28/04 03:51 PM Re: from Belize Times
Djean Offline
I am SO glad that someone has finally bring to light what I too have being trying to explain to people.

There are a lot of places outside of San Pedro that needs help and this is why when I see postings about bringing stuff to AC I always ask if we can be considered as well.

I am Debbie that M-A GAFFNEY is reffering to.

I am on the Dangriga Town Council and is also the Deputy Mayor.

I can be contacted at
djones@btl.net

Although I live in Dangriga, my "roots" are in the valley.

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