Report #1 of the Belize Development Trust ( prior to the Trust being formally formed )

New Library Building and Contents for the Mayan Hill Subsistence Farming Communities of the Toledo District, Belize, Central America
(Grant Proposal)

Principal Investigators:
Ray Auxillou
Silvia Pinzon, BA, MLS


This proposed project is an effort to build a Pilot Library and Core Collection of Titles to serve the remote Mayan Hill villages of the Toledo District in the country of Belize, Central America. Funds are required to build a building in a central Mayan "milpa" farming area community and stock it with appropriate audio-visual materials and equipment, books, and magazine subscriptions to provide information access to the surrounding community which at present has no access to a library.

Funds Requested: US$44,500

Project Length: 13 months

Project Directors: Toledo District Working Commission in cooperation with the Toledo Maya Council and the Toledo Mayan Communities


The Maya of the Toledo District hill communities speak mainly Mopan Maya and Ketchi Maya but are taught in English in the village school system. They also have some knowledge of Spanish. The economy of this remote district has been consistently out of the main stream of development in the country of Belize, and its inhabitants have no voice or power in national affairs. The central government has limited financial resources and is already doing more than it was thought possible under such circumstances. A technical and general library from the Belize government is out of the question at this time; however inroads by Asian logging companies and foreign owned citrus companies are threatening the way of life of these traditional hill villages. The Maya must learn to change. It is hoped this Pilot Library Project will be a tool to encourage and enable change while at the same time help to preserve the cultural Mayan heritage.


In the Mayan Agricultural Toledo District of Belize, the objectives of the Pilot Library would be:

  • To build a library structure and to purchase a core collection of titles and equipment to be used by pre-school and school age children and adults residing in surrounding villages. The library collection will consist mainly of picture books, magazine subscriptions, and "How To" materials and tapes in English, a computer, VCR, wall posters, and other media equipment.

  • To purchase and install library furniture like shelves, tables, chairs, etc.

  • To offer weekly juvenile and adult programs which will include "How to" books, video-tapes, wall posters, and multimedia items presenting educational and informative knowledge necessary to fulfill the needs of the local community. This program will serve approximately 500 children and 150 adults from the surrounding areas.

  • To encourage the nearest village schools and community groups to use the library materials on a weekly basis through word of mouth and active participation of community action groups, such as the Alcaldes Association and the Toledo Mayan Cultural Council.

  • To purchase fiction and non-fiction juvenile materials to assist children and adults with their recreational needs.


According to the World Business & Economic Review 1995, the Maya population comprises 14.6% of the total population of Belize. The Mayan Hill villages scattered through the high rain forest jungle of the Southern Toledo District, are finding their habitat and environment destroyed by expanding and encroaching modern society. Although the country literacy rate is reported by the Belizean government at 90%, there are no official figures for the Mayan population literacy rate. The Toledo Mayan Cultural Council unofficially estimates the literacy rate lower than 30%.

The Maya people must learn to understand, change, adapt, and use modern society and its methods and technology to survive as a unique cultural group. It is hoped that a technical/general library, with an appropriate collection, will help educate and inform the rural Maya, both young and adult, in alternate and modern technical agricultural methods other than the basis subsistence slash/burn they presently use. Also, the library could and should become a repository of local history and mores and a focal point for cultural and community cohesiveness.

The library construction Pilot Project is a unique opportunity to provide the Mayan Hill communities with a valuable educational, community, and informative source for development which they presently lack.


A review of the literature provided no previous examples of research done in this area. USAID has awarded a few grants for construction of residential housing in rural areas in Burma, El Salvador, Brazil and a few other developing countries. However, the Principal Investigator could not locate any programs with USAID for the specific construction of a library and development of a core technical/general collection to help indigenous native American people.

The British High Commission has worked in Belize for many years specializing in providing funds to grass-roots development projects such as a document scanner and 200 archival storage boxes for the Archives Department in Belmopan worth BZE$22,000, and resuscitation equipment to Stann Creek Tour Guides Association for CPR education.


Coordination and supervision of the project for construction of the library building, donation of land, and supply of personnel will be the province of the Toledo District Commission and the Maya Cultural Council. The acquisition of library materials, including shipping, handling, and processing, will be carried out by the Principal Investigator.

The library collection has to be rather unique and specialized due to the composition of the community and the low literacy rate in English. Nearly all instructional materials will be in picture/diagram or audio-visual form. "How To" encyclopedias, video tapes (with their required VCR machines), are all required, rather than a complex collection of books that few will be capable of reading.


It is anticipated that village adults and school students will use the library for self education and to complement, when necessary, the school work assignments.

It is hoped that progressive examples and availability of small scale agriculture and business methods coupled with technical information and pictures showing sources of simple/advanced mechanical methods, will help the Maya communities. I predict that visual library materials showing how things work, as well as material showing other cultures, technologies, and ways of thinking, will help the Maya adjust to the inevitable changes at their doorstep and will also provide them with information tools to preserve their cultural heritage.

One immediate result of this Pilot Project will be the availability of a local information resource center in a region that has none. A long range result will be to raise the literacy rate. The long range results will not be felt for about 3-5 years when changes in the community should come about.


The Pilot Library will keep statistical records of library usage (circulation of materials) by patron classification (e.g. school students, community members, community groups, etc.). The statistical results will be gathered quarterly and presented to the Mayan Cultural Council and the Toledo Working Commission.

Within three months of library operation, a survey will be developed and applied to find out the level of community participation and satisfaction with the Pilot Library. The results will be sent to the Mayan Cultural Council, the Toledo Working Commission, and the appropriate government office in Belmopan.


The library when finished will be under the control of a new indigenous Maya movement called the Toledo District Working Commission, composed of elected persons from the many different Indian villages. The library itself will be handed over to the National Library Service on completion, but as the National Library Service itself has little financial resources to develop such services, no extra help other than administration and organization is expected at the national level. Statistical results and surveys will be handed over to the National Government in Belmopan, the local District Working Toledo Commission government, and the Grant Project Funding Agency.


The timetable for the project is expected to be 13 months. The time periods will cover initial funding, selection of a suitable contractor in the area by the Toledo Working Commission, and final construction of the building itself, including electrical wiring, plumbing, and internal structures, such as tables, chairs, and bookshelves.

Toward the end of the construction phase will come the ordering of books, charts, posters, and media materials. This part of the project will be consolidated in Miami, Florida and shipped to Belize by container ship. The selection of materials for initial stocking of the library will start once funding has been allocated.

March 1, 1997Project approved. Principal Investigator receives funding check and opens an account with the Bank of America, Main Branch, in Miami.
March 2, 1997The Principal Investigator authorizes a transfer of US$15,000 to the Toledo Working Commission Account in the Belize Bank in the coastal town of Punta Gorda, Toledo District. The transfer of funds and deposit to the bank in Belize can take anywhere from four to six week due to the uncertainties with international transmission of funds. Local Belize banks can also take up to one month to clear a foreign check.
April 15, 1997The Toledo District arranges the donation of land and the contract for construction and architect services.
In Miami, the Principal Investigator starts work on a list of selected library titles and media equipment suitable to the community.
May 15, 1997Architectural design and contractor negotiation begins.
August 1, 1997Construction of library building begins.
November 1 to December 30, 1997 The contractor supplies shelves, tables, chairs, cabinets, etc., to furnish the library and display the collection.
November 30, 1997 Library construction ends. Project Pilot Library building completed.
January 1 to April 1, 1998 Purchasing of library materials and equipment. Shipping, customs clearance, internal freight and arrival of library materials. Shelving and organization of the library for opening day. Invitations sent to all persons and organization participating in the project and to Belizean political figures.
April 15, 1998 Opening ceremony and official first day of operations.


Estimates for the construction of the library building have been given by the Toledo Working Commission as US$13,000; for the furnishings US$2,000. The land is to be donated, and as of yet the negotiations have not been started, though preliminary overtures have been made in this respect. The staffing is expected to be voluntary by community participation. The Toledo District Commission will provide supervision and liaison with the National Library Service at no extra cost. Operational expenses for electricity are the province of the communities and will be arranged as needed. The balance of the funds will go to purchase of library materials, shipping and freight costs to Belize, and internal freight to the Toledo District, including Customs Duties.

Once the Pilot Library Project is in place and operating, it is expected that there will be a need for more funding for construction of other library buildings and their library collections in other areas of Southern Belize to serve the Mayan communities. Thus, creating a network of community libraries in an area that so far lacks access to any library.

$ 4,800
VCR$ 400
TOTAL$ 35,925


The introduction of computers and E-Mail service via the more easily reached Mayan viallages, which already have electricity, will be the first thing established. Already there is communication via E-Mail with two such affiliated persons on the nearby coast, at the small town of Punta Gorda. These individuals are currently doing relay messages to the hill village council organizations involved in the project.

Principal Investigators E-mail addresses:

Ray Auxillou, trust2&
Silvia Pinzon, BA, MLS, [email protected]


Toledo Working Commission

Maya Cultural Council

The village Alcalde from the Alcalde's Association

(See attached letters)


There are a number of suitable candidates for funding this grant, but prominent among them are USAID, which has already given grant awards in the country of Belize, and also the British High Commission which specializes in funding grass roots projects in Belize.


Grant application filled out and sent with a cover letter to the funding agency.

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Maintained by Ray Auxillou, Silvia Pinzon, MLS, and Marty Casado. Please email with suggestions or additions for this Electronic Library of Belize.