One might think that business people are too involved with their jobs and they hardly find time to do anything else. Unfortunately many times this is true. But there are also people who, even though they are very busy, prioritize and make time to help in their community. In San Pedro there is a great "Amiga" who proves that owning a business does not necessarily mean that you are tied only to one thing. Melanie Paz has found time to help and has done it well.
Melanie was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA on April 2nd, 1962 to Yolanda Castillo of Belize City and Phillip Gallaty of Louisiana. At the young age of six weeks, Melanie traveled with her parents to her mother's homeland, Belize. Growing up, she attended St. Catherine's Elementary School and then St. Catherine's Academy where she graduated in 1979. Melanie then returned to her birthplace New Orleans to further her education. She attended St. Mary's Dominican College (all girls Catholic College) where she majored in Business Administration. Melanie's studies encouraged her to enter the world of business.
In 1981 she returned to Belize City where she went to work for the family business, Victor L. Bryant, a wholesale and insurance company. She worked with the company for a period of two and a half years performing all the aspects of the business. Melanie left the family business to move to San Pedro in 1984. Her first job was as a receptionist at Paradise Resort Hotel. Melanie married Albino "Changa" Paz in April of 1985. Together they have two children, Andre is eleven and Krista is six. She then went to work for one of San Pedro's most luxurious resorts at the time, the Belizean (now the Essene Way). Her duties consisted of secretarial tasks, as well as, accounting. Melanie left the Belizean after Mr. Seferino Paz Jr. offered her a partnership in Bottom Time Dive Shop, then located at the SunBreeze Hotel. Melanie accepted and managed the dive shop, to the best of her abilities, for a period of two years. Melanie's interest in the dive shop (diving) industry quickly elevated and her eagerness to learn soon paid off. She was asked to manage The Dive Shop at the Holiday Hotel, which she did. Melanie, along with her husband saw a great business opportunity in the diving industry and in 1991 opened their own dive shop, Amigos del Mar. By this time Melanie had already been certified as an advanced open water diver. Their business started off with two boats, the Sun and Island Princess and two employees. Melanie and Changa, along with their employees were dedicated to offering good service to their clients which is how they have become one of San Pedro's leading dive shops. Today, Amigos del Mar offers full service diving and is known for its excellent reputation. They have increased their staff from two to twelve workers.
You might think that Melanie's business requires all her time, and it usually does, but she still makes time for things that she strongly believes in. Melanie has always been an active person in this community: fighting for the betterment of San Pedro and for the growth and well being of the Tourism Industry. She has been a dynamic member of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) holding all positions in the Association, including the Area Representative for BTIA in San Pedro. She has held the position of Chairperson of the Environmental Committee making the "one-way street" project a reality. Community service is not something new to her. While growing up, Melanie was actively involved in the Leos Club and Rotarac in Belize City. She was always community-oriented and enjoyed lending a helping hand. A yearly project she clearly remembers was visiting Stella Maris School.
Today that hard working spirit still lives in Melanie. She is involved with Green Reef, active at all DEMA shows, serves on the Board of Directors for Hol Chan, started "adopt a buoy project" and is responsible for the majority of the buoys through solicited donations. Melanie and Amigos del Mar also donated money for mooring buoys outside the reef, as well as giving the fuel, time and man power for this project. They are also responsible for sinking the "Amigos Wreck," a popular dive site, three and a half years ago. It took them over two weeks to clean the iron steel and over $1000 to make it environmentally safe. They have also contributed to the Costa Maya Festival, 1st Division Football, Town Board, have organized and assisted in touring Familiarization Groups on the island and donated transportation to many good causes. Because of all this and more, they have established themselves as a very charitable business, giving back what they get. When asked about future plans, Melanie commented, "I am very satisfied with the business. We will stick to what we know best - diving."
Melanie continues working on a daily basis hoping that her knowledge in the diving business will satisfy her customers and give notoriety to our beautiful Barrier Reef. As a business, Amigos del Mar provides excellent service and as a person, Melanie renders admirable services to Belize and San Pedro. Melanie is not only an "Amiga del Mar," but an exemplary "Amiga of Our Community."
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