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#418490 - 10/12/11 09:05 AM Rancho Residents “Rail-Up” With Website
Marty Online   happy
Statistics show that there is widespread poverty in Belize - and there are pockets of complete - desperation - where everyday school children have to hustle to get a meal that's more than a bag of chips.

But Rancho Dolores is - by and large - not one of those communities. The new amalgamated school has a feeding programme and the proud river Valley community takes care of its own.

So then you can imagine their outrage when residents stumbled onto a site set up by a US volunteer which advertised their children as going hungry many days.

They called us and other media about the site this weekend. It has been up for a year and was quickly taken down - but we had it in archives and Monica Bodden examined it and got reaction from villagers:..

Monica Bodden Reporting
The webpage stated and we quote...

"The Lunch bell rings and the 40 students scatter out of the small one room school house of Our Lady of Sorrows. Some of them begin their lunch hour commute home, sometimes up to 40 minutes each way in order to get a lunch meal. Other students simply hang out in the shade or play a game of cricket.

These kids were only getting one meal per day… normally at night time back at home. Furthermore the meals that they are getting are all deep friend or highly preserved meals."

This was posted on a website called mattbullaphoto.com feed the children of Belize.

Matt Bulla who visited Belize as a volunteer for the Spanish Creek Rainforest Reserve was referring to the Children of Rancho Dolores in the Belize District.

On the website, pictures were posted of students attending Our Lady of Sorrows Primary School in the village - some were marked with the word SOLD in bold letters. That is because Bulla was begging for donations on the internet to feed these children. One that same site it stated and we quote "If we can raise 4,000 dollars this year, it will be enough to feed the entire school for a year". Buller mentioned that people could even win a fully framed photograph of the children.

These pictures were dated back from last year March - which means the children's pictures have probably been posted on this site for over a year now.

The only problem is, neither these students' parents nor their school had any idea that they were being advertised on the internet. This has left this small community outraged and they say something needs to be done.

Coleen Joseph told us she was first informed of it by someone in the village and went to Belize City to find out on the internet where she saw her 11 year old daughter posing for food donations.

Coleen Joseph - Resident of Rancho
"I went to Belize on Friday because I heard that children from Rancho was on the internet begging for food and I thought that it was a lie and so I went and I saw with my two eyes that my daughter is on it because I went to UB and I saw all the pictures and even read the information that is on the website."

Monica Bodden
"What was some of those information?"

Coleen Joseph - Resident of Rancho
"That the kids were in need of food because they had to go like 40 minutes away from school in the afternoon to eat, sometime they come to school without eating and they have to give them food and at night time - maybe they would get a plate of food to eat. That is a lie."

Monica Bodden
"What kind of pictures was posted?"

Coleen Joseph - Resident of Rancho
"Pictures with the children. I haven't seen the picture with the child eating a "pack bread." Different people saw different things because I didn't have access to a computer. I had to go to Belize to do that. So people are saying that they saw the children eating "pack bread," the children in clothes not button up properly taking pictures. That's all I know about up to now."

"The teachers are saying that they are sold already too along with some of the kids. I didn't see my daughter sold either. All I know is that she is on it."

"I don't feel comfortable knowing that my child was posted on a website because I never gave any consent to do that, that's why it really hurts me. It is my oldest child."

Monica Bodden
"How old is your child?"

Coleen Joseph - Resident of Rancho
"My child is eleven years old."

Edlene Smith told us both her daughters were posted on the site - one had the word SOLD at the bottom of her picture.

Monica Bodden
"How did you first find out that both of your children are posted on the internet?"

Edlene Smith - Resident of Rancho Dolores
"Well actually I went to church on Sunday, after church service I receive a text from a friend stating that there will be a meeting to be held in our community. I didn't get any information about what the meeting will be about."

Monica Bodden
"So you attended this meeting?"

Edlene Smith - Resident of Rancho Dolores
"Yes I did and when I attended the meeting; when I first got there I did not know exactly what the meeting was all about and so I stand aside to listen before I could say something positive."

Monica Bodden
"At the meeting what was discussed?"

Edlene Smith - Resident of Rancho Dolores
"The discussion was about pictures of our children that had been taken from last year."

Monica Bodden
"After the meeting you went on the internet to see for yourself?"

Edlene Smith - Resident of Rancho Dolores
"Yes because a young man was there that had a computer. I ask him to please show me computer. He showed me that two of my children are on the computer."

Monica Bodden
"Was there "sold" on your children or no?"

Edlene Smith - Resident of Rancho Dolores
"Yes my youngest child who goes by the name of Xylene. I was pretty upset as a parent because I know that there are several times that people came to our school to take pictures especially from churches and different areas. But one of my major concern is when I saw it on the computer a thought came to my mind - if my child have been sold, what if one of these days someone came knocking on my door and say 'you know what Mrs. Smith, your child has been already taken,' how would I feel as a parent and not only me, I am concern about the entire community and the body of parents in my community because we are the ones looking after our children and I believe - no matter how hard you have life you will make sure that your child get three meals a day that he/she deserve."

Monica Bodden
"So all these things on the internet that they are saying that these children have no food, they only eat one time a day - all that is bogus, false, not true?"

Edlene Smith - Resident of Rancho Dolores
"It is not true because I am sure. I will not sit back at home and watch my child goes to school hungry - no! I will not."

Tricia Pook was the Principal of the Lady of Sorrows Primary School at the time. She says she had no idea that the school children's pictures were taken to be posted on the internet - She says she recalls Bulla taking pictures on the same day their school was receiving a donation for computers.

Tricia Pook - Head Teacher
"Well I am upset as well as much as how they are because these pictures were taken after we had a donation ceremony for our computers. We were donated eight computers for our computer lab and after we got that donation we had training with some students - these students work at the Tropic Agro-forestry here in Rancho and after the training with the children and the teachers - that's when they took our pictures. They took pictures of the children and of the teachers. They didn't tell us that they were going to post them on their website. They didn't ask permission. Usually when we get donations for the school from any organizations they would usually take pictures of the children and of the teachers. It's not the first time people come to our school and take pictures of the children and the teachers. We don't know what they were going to do with these pictures."

"The first confrontation I had with Mrs. Brooks McBowen - I sat with her in front of the chairman of this village. That's when they ask about the needs of the school. That's when me along with the chairman, Mrs. McBowen and Courtney Allen who is a teacher who say that they do fund-raising outside to help schools. My first need for the school was a photocopier. Then I remember that we have a computer lab that is empty - that's when we beg for the computers, then they also mention that they could help with a feeding program, maybe they could help with uniforms and books, but our two most needs for the school were; a photocopier and computers for the computer lab."

Monica Bodden
"Who is Mrs. Brooks?"

Tricia Pook - Head Teacher
"She is presently managing Tropical Agro-forestry here in Rancho."

Angie Smith - angry resident
"I am happy that Channel 7 really got an interview from the principal. I am shock and so heartbroken that we have to reach to the end of this. But for me why I choose to talk - Coleen Joseph is my first cousin and I was looking out for her with her children but as I told you guys before I got in when my son came to tell me that he took a picture at school. Then I say that if Coleen children is on the internet and my son tell me that he took a picture then I got concern and it was then that I went to look it up for her (Coleen) - hoping that my son never appeared on the internet but they find some information that needed to come up long ago that the village of Rancho Dolores needed to know because if it wasn't for that then you guys wouldn't have been here today because nothing would have been here to report. But due to that you guys have something to report and the education department here in Rancho Dolores."

What first raised Smith's concerns was when her 4 year old son came home and told her that a persons he described as a "white woman" snapped his picture as recently as last week.

Monica Bodden
"Have you had a chance to find out who took your son's picture?"

Angie Smith - angry resident
"No, all he tells me is that it was a white lady. I still don't know who took my son picture but trust me I'll get to the bottom of it. I am different, I am one of the members in this community that is very different and I do things very different from them. He is my kid, I love my kid and I will die for my kid. All what I want they do is to find out who is getting the money because we are sure that money is involve. Let us know who is getting the money and who in the village the money is coming to for our children. I have a cousin who have 6 children and a cousin who have 5 going to that school. So let us know who was getting the money for the children."

Monica Bodden
"Some of these children have sold at the bottom of the pictures?"

Angie Smith - angry resident
"Yes, some of them have sold in black and white, I don't know what they mean - if it is a sponsor or if they are sold for good and that they will come for the child later on."

Edlene Smith - Resident of Racho Dolores
"We should all have concern. It is not only me who have children, people from my community and other community and as they can see that this is a light that came to our community and if we as the parents do not act upon it right now - then in other areas other children could be at stake at the same time as well."

As we noted the site has been taken down since the community raised an uproar on Saturday night.

Belize District Education Officer "Livid"

And no one was happier about that than Jahmoor Lopez, the Belize District Education Officer.

In an unusually candid interview he told LOVE TV today that he was livid when he saw the site, particularly because there is a successful feeding program in that area.

We tried to speak to him as well, but by the time we got him, he had been reigned in - presumably for his candid remarks. We were referred to the ministry press officer - but instead we asked our colleagues at LOVE FM for their interview, which we will air a snippet of:..

Jahmoor Lopez, the Belize District Education Officer
"Clearly we are livid, we are upset, we know what has been happening very often in our society these days with our young children being exploited and we have yet another case and this one is now being done internationally. I submitted some information to our senior management team, I am awaiting feedback from them, but we are trying to get a go on this because we cannot just sit and wait for things to unfold, but we have to get to the bottom of this."

"We have a feeding program in all those sites, those children receive a hot meal every midday and I can tell you that there are days when we are out there visiting, I jokingly tell the cooks and the teachers, that we will leave Belize City and come and joined them for lunch. In addition to that we provide healthy drinks and snacks for them that we have been getting from Guatemala. there is a nutritious drink called "Incaparina" and then there is some other snack, but there is no need - I look at the amount of snacks that the children are getting in addition to their lunch and I say these children are being over fed, so there is absolutely no reason, it's certainly erroneous, misleading and it's nothing short of being crooked and unscrupulous that these people are putting this information on the web saying that these children are hungry and to say that they are collecting monies to pay the salaries of teachers, I mean, it's just, I am so upset I am at a loss for words to describe what it is that they have done. "

"I want to send a word out to Matthew - you and your accomplices be careful we will be on your trail; the internet is such a wonderful tool. Belize seems to have become a haven to all these crooks in the US and all over the world who run here and seek here as a haven. We will track you down, that's the word we will track you down, and we will bring you to task for this."

Lopez says he called Bulla but he was told it was a wrong number.

Channel 7

#418536 - 10/12/11 03:20 PM Re: Rancho Residents “Rail-Up” With Website [Re: Marty]
Diane Campbell Offline
Wonder if he's been to the island - the name is very familiar.

This is one very very bad person.


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