The Columbia River Cooperative has announced the launch of fundraising efforts to open a Rainforest Academy in 2014 in San Pedro Columbia, Toledo – a village with an estimated population of 2,000.

Lisa Kile, a Belizean-American who has lived in the village for decades, and who teaches at the Toledo Community College in Punta Gorda, told Amandala that she donated land for the new school on her premises (for a token consideration of $1.00) so that the project can be implemented.

Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education David Leacock confirmed to our newspaper that the group has submitted its application. Leacock said that the normal procedure is for the District Council to conduct an inspection and make a recommendation to the Chief Education Officer, Chris Aird. Leacock said that he could not yet provide any details on the status of this particular application.

Gilroy Usher and Lisa White Kile, who share a son, told us more about the project: Usher, a former employee of the National 4H Club in Belmopan, said that he and Kile had an idea to set up an academy with an agricultural emphasis.

Usher said that he would like to see the Ministry of Education support the homegrown project, because villagers are major stakeholders in the project. He said that they are also working hard to get international support for the academy.

According to Kile, the first storey of the building has already been built, and they would like to build two storeys. She said that the second flat will be built if they get approval from the Ministry of Education.

She said that a Canadian group has already invested more than $100,000 into this project.

Kile said that hundreds of teens leave their villages daily, during the school year, to attend school either at Julian Cho at the Dump, or at TCC in Punta Gorda; and having a school closer to home would be better for them.

Kile also said that she hopes to involve students, as a part of a sustainable agriculture course, in a project for the cultivation and care of the pupae of Belizean blue morpho – which she currently exports from Belize. The project, she said, can teach students how they can make money from unusual agricultural projects.

There will be a community meeting at San Pedro Columbia at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday, when they expect to elect a school board, she told us.