Cilantro, cabbage, tomato and even pumpkins are usually bought at the West Collet Canal market. But because of a greenhouse project, the Liberty Children’s Home in Ladyville will have the fresh produce right in their backyard. Twenty volunteers from a US university teamed up with the children of Liberty and completed the project in three weeks. The children’s home, that has experienced financial challenges, intends to also sell the produce to generate funds for the running of the home. News Five’s Delahnie Bain met with the volunteers earlier today.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
Today was the culmination of almost three weeks of work on a ninety by fifteen foot greenhouse at the Liberty Children’s Home. The project was funded and completed by volunteer students from the University of Southern California through the Alternative Winter Break program.
Delfina Mitchell, Director, Liberty Children’s Home
“Because of our financial status, you know we’re really hurting for money, we rely on volunteers a lot. We had a couple volunteers that came through a year or so ago from the University of Southern California and because of their positive experience they received here at Liberty, they went back to their school and spoke about Liberty. So we had the student volunteer contact us, telling us that they wanted to come as a group and do something for us here at Liberty.”
Nina Portugal, Co-Director, Alternative Winter Break, Belize
“We’ve been doing a combination of work. We’ve been caregivers during the day for the children; so working with them, doing arts and crafts projects, keeping them busy, sports and that stuff. And then we’ve been working on this greenhouse project to leave something sustainable for the orphanage in hopes to provide more fruits and vegetables and a healthy diet for the kids. So much was donated; the soil, the timber, so it’s really great to work with other community groups that are also supporting Liberty.”
Director of the children’s home, Delfina Mitchell, says the greenhouse has been on their wish list for years.
“On our five acre campus we grow vegetables and some herbs here but we do everything organic and we have a population of iguanas and squirrels who think that we plant the cabbage and the lettuce just for them. This greenhouse is going to be something that’s going to enable us to produce more vegetables; a wider variety of vegetables, more of it and year round. And what we hope to do with this is not just provide the vegetables for our children’s meals and reducing the money that I normally have to spend on vegetables, but we plan to sell the excess produce and generate income to come back into the organization.”
While it’s a gift to the organization, the project has also been rewarding for the volunteers.
“You can always go on vacation to a place like Belize; everyone sees the beaches on every postcard. But when you’re actually in Belize and living here—like we live down the street—and then we’re working alongside people and this is their life in this beautiful environment, it puts more in perspective of what you’re doing so you really get more out of it.”
Victor Paredes, Co-Director, Alternative Winter Break, Belize
“I heard Belize was a beautiful country but at the same time I always wanted to do something meaningful with my life whenever I’m given the chance. Being at the university, we’re constantly working on classes and tests and we never get time to get to do anything that’s meaningful outside of the classroom and this was definitely a great opportunity to do that.”
But it hasn’t been all work and no play. The students—even with their busy schedules—have taken time to experience the Jewel.
“We went to Altun Ha, we went to Old Belize Museum on Belize history, we went to Halfmoon Caye, the Blue Hole. We’re going cave-tubing in the Cayo District, the zoo; we took all the kids to the zoo the day after Christmas. So yeah we’ve done a few things.”
“I think working at an orphanage such as this really made me realize that maybe in the future I could potentially adopt or work with kids to a greater extent than I have already.”
The project at Liberty is a small part of the work the Alternative Winter Break program does to live up to its slogan “change the world, change yourself. Delahnie Bain for News Five.
The greenhouse will be maintained by Liberty employees, Angel Briceño and Donald Tillett, the grounds supervisor.