San Mateo Empowerment Project draws to a successful end
The project has been a “blessing” say residents of San Mateo
After three full years in progress the San Mateo Empowerment Project came to an end on March 14th, 2013. The culmination of the project took place during a short ceremony at the entrance of the San Mateo Subdivision in northern San Pedro Town. The San Mateo Empowerment Project was the vision of Professor Kim Shackelford and the many students of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), who aimed to replace London bridges (long stretches of old wood planks over swamp) with roads for the people of San Mateo.
Residents, students and teachers of the area attended the ceremony to show their appreciation towards the effort made by Ole Miss students and professors who have touched the lives of the needy people of the island. “Kim Shackelford is a blessing to us. San Mateo Empowerment Project is a blessing to the residents of San Mateo and we will forever be thankful,” said Grace Williams the Principal of Holy Cross Anglican School, and a resident living in San Mateo.
San Mateo is the eyesore of the island,” said the Mayor of San Pedro Town Daniel Guerrero in his remarks indicating that the subdivision should have never taken place. San Mateo subdivision was built on swamp land that lacks adequate infrastructure such as roads, electricity, sewage system and most importantly, potable water. “But slowly we are turning the wheels and improving the lives of the people of this area,” continued Guerrero in his remarks. A change that Guerrero said, started with the San Mateo Empowerment Project.
Shackelford spoke of the first time she visited San Mateo and how shocked she was to see the living conditions of the residents. “I had to walk on the London bridges that stretched out as far as the eyes can see, and I would get tired half way through my walk. I was afraid to fall off the small planks into the black swamp water; I was scared. Three years ago, when I brought a group of students, they too were touched by the living conditions and it eventually gave birth to the project. When they were asked to assess the situation and identify a community need, the students came back in less than three days to say that roads were a need,” reflected Shackelford. “The students found out that before other needs could be addressed, the first thing that was needed in place was road access…. The students came up with the plan to start building roads.”
Determined to bring some relief to the people of San Mateo, the Ole Miss students, working along with Kim and the community established the San Mateo Empowerment Project in January of 2010. The students began fundraisers through food sale, yard sales and even karaoke night back in Mississippi in an effort to raise monies that could finance their dream of building roads in the San Mateo Area. “We at Ole Miss don’t make a promise that we cannot live up to and even more so to the people of San Mateo. So we got to work,” said Kim. And work they did and by March of 2010, ground was broken to lay the foundation that would bring a community in Belize and a university thousands of miles away together for one common goal – to build a road for a community in need.
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