On the resort island of Ambergris Caye, just off the coast of Belize, is a community sometimes referred to as the forgotten place. Officially known as San Mateo, this is a community of 1,500 or more living in shacks made from found materials. They live in swampland, sewage, garbage and many without running water or electricity.
In 2004 two American missionaries were vacationing on the island when they noticed an appalling number of school age children wandering the beaches alone. Because the public school was far past capacity and the private schools were beyond most people's means, these children were left to fend for themselves.
Francis and Vernon Wilson decided to work with the Belize government to build a school that would benefit the community of San Mateo. In 2006 its doors opened and enrollment has soared. The school has provided education, food and healthcare to the community.
This emerging success story is being threatened by the very resort development that employs many of those living in San Mateo. Encroaching beyond the mangroves are condos and the threat of displacement. The most immediate threat is to the school which rests as a buffer between development and the community.
Dear Friends, Please take a few minutes (actually six!) to download and watch this video. It was lovingly prepared by video journalist, Travis Mathews, at no cost to the school. Travis did an incredible job of documenting the struggles of the people who live in San Mateo and the children who attend Holy Cross. Many thanks to Travis and to each of you who support this ministry with your prayers and financial contributions. Blessings, Francis
Good idea, build a free school in a swamp, allow unsustainable enrollment. Lets see, a man and a woman decides to have 8 kids and relies on outside sources (hand outs) to provide for them. Don't spend a buck on a rubber, cuts into savings for that move to the great mall to the north. There, they can possibly get into a welfare system and be set. Pretty good plan.
How about teaching kids to rely on themselves.
I didn't know that construction workers were "Human Animals".
Lets see Francis and Vernon came here in their million dollar yacht-set about buying land -they wanted to go four stories on their project -find out that at the time that was illegal-they go to the town board and say we will build us a special need school if the town give them the land near theirs-they would use their money to build this school for 60 kids-they then bring people to the swamp and increase the size of the school to over 500 because they see power in numbers-nobody in their right minds would put 500plus kids in a swamp-the sewage system is not on the schools land and it is covered in water. My views are well known but people are squatting in the swamp looking for hand-outs -they should not be there -the Wilsons should build their resort which has had plans for over three years and build a sewage system for their own project. Welfare is not an option in the most expensive place in Central America-look at all the Belizeans that come over here and both husband and wife work-a lot of these families have ideas of going back to their place of birth -build their own house etc. and then we look at the people that just come here for handouts and squat-what do the true belizean workers think of these people.
So, Peter, am I getting this right??...You feel as though these people are taking advantage of those that were kind enough to offer services and are now becoming an "entitlement" community?
I can't watch this video and not have my heartstrings pulled. I can't accept that people would "choose" to live as is portrayed in this video.
It is human nature to do what you have to do to survive. If there is "an easier way" that is generally the path people will choose. There is nothing wrong with accepting help when it is necessary. Many people even have internal conflict when accepting aid even when it is most direly needed.
The questions I would pose are: 1. how do you determine how much help is too much; and 2. at what point would you say the aid being received in the manner of an entitlement (ie. the people receiving the aid believe they are entitled to it by no other virtue beyond their perceived "need" with no gratitude or moral balance sheet required).
Pretty sure most of the people I saw on the video were hard working, English speaking Belizeans & their kids.
Everybody is entitled to have a dream - whether or not it is attainable is up to each individual to assess in his or her given situation.
Giving the kids an education will give them a chance to be able to learn how to rely on themselves in the future.
Indeed there are a fair amount of illegal immigrants living on the caye - they ran from civil wars, extreme poverty, natural disasters etc.
Their children will live here whether or not they are welcome. There is no where else for them to go. Now we can kick and fuss about the legal, moral and religious beliefs of these immigrants - but the fact remains that they are extra mouths to feed, extra roofs to provide, extra burdens on our system - and extra leaders and workers for the future of this island.
Have a heart.
Belize welcomes immigrants that are rich and poor - just like other democratic nations in the world.
If you don't want to help them put food on the table, educate their kids and give them a tiny boost to get them on the right track to success and improve their very, very dire living conditions - that is your choice. But remember these kids are smart and resilient and they will survive - whether or not you choose to help.
It is easy for the privileged, that have never gone hungry or had to wonder when the next paying job will be available, or when the next immigration sweep will be to dismiss those in these desperate situations.
This story is not focusing on people that choose to be poor, choose to live in the swamps, choose not to have jobs - these are fellow human beings that are down on their luck and struggling to survive. Who does it really hurt when you extend a helping hand?
Let us not forget Belize opened it's doors to the El Salvador crisis. I remember when Cayo opened the first peanut butter factory to make jobs. My very poor in laws found it in their hearts to put together and make beds and mattresses for them to sleep on. Now they have businesses and can vote.
I also remember when I was hired by the UN to oversee the burning of documents when the UNHCR pulled out of Belize.
Belize is a haven of democracy, for peace loving people, with wealth untold. It is a damn shame people use our kindness for weakness and exploit these assets.
Hopefully someday we will elect the right young folks, with new vision, to usher Belize into a new era.
I've traveled a fair amount and have seen extreme poverty in different parts of the world. It is always heart-wrenching to see people living in extreme conditions without clean water, safe sanitation, food, or decent shelter. Worldwide, humans migrate to escape poverty, religious persecution, and ethnic oppression. Their subsequent settlement into areas that provide the resources they seek: food, water, shelter, and perhaps employment, sometimes comes into conflict with those already existing there especially if the new migrants are competing for existing resources. Sometimes even if the conditions are deplorable, it's better than where they migrated from. There will always be an extreme contrast between those who "have" and those who "have not". For those "haves" who haven't been exposed to it, viewing extreme poverty can come as a shock. One of the majour problems across the globe is that we are reaching carrying capacity at an alarming rate. Carrying capacity for a given environment (the earth) is the capacity that it can sustain a population. Unfortunately, religious and cultural taboos, and reduced access to consistent birth control, ensures that the population will keep burgeoning until we run out of resources or a global plague that we can't control reduces the population (this is what happens in animal populations--a disease reduces the herd). There is no easy fix to poverty as it is a complex problem.
this is an excerpt i wrote on another thread - same subject:
"...the other side is his concern regarding the school, also valid. BUT - they provide a service by educating the children of these illegals and keeping them off the streets and give them a chance for a legal job someday. like it or not, it is true. is this wrong? maybe. BUT - the children do and will exist anyway because developers entice the parents to come. if you don't keep these kids off the street, and they can't read or write english, what will they do? they will be uneducated and on the streets, and likely to grow up to commit crimes like the one in this thread.
to the chicken-and-egg thought: where do you start? close down the school, or curtail the number of illegals coming in by making developers and other businesses accountable for who they bring in to work? i don't believe they are coming here just so that they can go to the school. they come because they are offered work. perhaps have someone checking papers. someone making sure they leave or get residency when the project is complete. i'm sure i'm not the first one to think of this, yet it seems like it is just overlooked."
on a side note, i recall the word "recruiting" used in regard to workers. i wonder why are the non-working (legals and not) of san mateo not being actively recruited and put to work? just curious.
I don't think that poverty is the issue here. The point is that a school for the poor, though noble, is built in a swamp, bad idea. Which of course is a major safety and health hazard to the kids that attend.
There are many who are poor, but have pride and a sense of self reliance. They don't teach their kids that handouts/welfare is a way of life. I assure you that at least 1/2 of the students there have families that can afford to send them to the SPRC school. but why should they if they can get a handout. This is a problem in this case.
It's VERY hard to find fault in providing children with nutrition and an education.
It's even harder to fault this effort when it's being done WITH OUT the use of public tax dollars.
My father and mother are both educators in the public school system here in the U.S. My dad, a long term school administrator, commonly quotes a U.S. study that found basically for every child that goes uneducated into adulthood there is a jail cell that will need to be built and funded.
Future full time Belizeans Tommy & Sonia Blackledge Magee, MS 601-849-1918