Rita Coleman, U.S. Embassy’s Woman of the Year
She is unassuming but a dedicated educator and community worker from Hattieville who has been cited for the woman of the year award. Despite her selfless dedication in assisting single mothers, Rita Coleman also spends time on promoting programs for young persons and the elderly. According to the US Ambassador, Vinai Thummalapally, there is so much to appreciate in the achievements of remarkable women and the causes to which they devote their lives, which is why the US Embassy established the Belize Woman of the Year Award. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
In recognition of over three decades of community service, Rita Coleman of Hattieville was today named Belize Woman of the Year 2012 by the US Embassy. She is as well known educator, but the scope of her work also includes assisting youth, single mothers and the elderly. Still, the acknowledgment came as a surprise for Coleman.
Rita Coleman, Woman of the Year 2012
“I’m so thankful. I was in a shock when I was called and was given this news. I said me? I couldn’t believe it because I know there’s so many women out there. I listen to my radio and I look at my TV and I see so many women out there doing so many things and I admire what they’re doing. Some of the names are here today. Little did I realize that what I am doing in my own little corner has added up and so I’m thankful.”
Vinai Thummalapally, US Ambassador to Belize
“Because Hattieville is not one of Belize’s biggest cities, many may not know of Mrs. Coleman’s accomplishments. Mrs. Coleman spent over thirty years as a teacher and another fifteen or so as a principal. She was one of the founding members of the Association for Government School Principals in the Belize District and served on the Board of Directors of the Primary School Principals’ Association. Her achievements at the Hattieville government school are many.
She has a special interest in helping single mothers overcome the obstacles they confront and hopes to expand on her efforts to provide opportunities for these young women to hone their parenting skills and where possible discover ways to generate income and perhaps continue their education.”
She is also the founder of a women’s group called Leading and Empowering Others in Action and Principle (LEAP) that started in 1981. Coleman says that one of the initiatives she is proudest of is a senior citizens group that has been meeting at her house for over ten years.
“Keeping the senior citizens together; that is one of the achievements I am proud of. I have ladies that have come with me and have gone on to the states and from time to time they would write back and ask is that program still going? Still alive and kicking. I have the feeding program that is one of my passions also and I’m working with it; I’m very proud of that. And I am proud of seeing students that I thought in school—I have been administrator—and what they have become.”
And while a love of helping others has been her motivation over the years, her family has also made it easy and Coleman says her husband has been especially supportive of her work.
“I must say I get full support from my husband; I can’t stop saying that because he is there with me. Sometimes I’m not home all day; I would leave my house from seven in the morning and I won’t get back until maybe seven in the night and I’m gone all day and when I get back food is there, you know everything is on the table and he gives me that full support; we work together as a team.”
“We would be remiss if we fail to recognize the men in Belize who support and encourage the remarkable women in this country. If one accepts the old adage that behind every great man stands a great woman, then surely it is time to note that behind every great woman should stand a remarkable man.”
The award includes two tickets to anywhere in the US sponsored by Delta and American Airlines.
“These tickets will permit Mrs. Coleman to fly to the United States and will allow her to participate later this autumn in a special opportunity known as Volunteer Visitor Program. The US government will cover all domestic travel and accommodation expenses for meetings designed especially for Mrs. Coleman to allow her to learn more and share her own expertise with municipal groups focusing on education and the needs of single mothers.”
The nine other nominees received certificates of recognition at today’s ceremony. The judges were also recognized for taking on the tough task of selecting a winner. Delahnie Bain for News Five.
The other nominees for the 2012 Woman of the Year were Psychiatric Nurse, Margaret Bradley; Yvette Burks of the Rotary Gift of Life Program and BERT; Phyllis Cayetano, the founder of the Gulissi Primary School; Director of the Women’s Department, Icilda Humes; Founder and President of Unity Outreach Ecumenical Ministries, Erna Jones; student Earth Lopez; Audrey Matura Shepherd, environmentalist and human rights activist; Dr. Sharmayne Saunders, the Program Officer at UWI and Arlette Sheppard of the Health Education and Community Participation Bureau.