Today, the Government of Belize and the US Embassy, along with members of the Canadian and US Southern Command military held a closing ceremony at the Trial Farm Government School in Orange Walk Town.
It was a fitting location because these partners collaborated on a program called “New Horizons” where medical services were offered to thousands of students, and major upgrades were realized on 4 schools across the country.
The program has been actives for several months, and today, after extensive efforts, it was closed for this year. 7News attended the ceremony, where the diplomats expressed surprise for the extensive passage of time.
Here’s how the Principal of the hosting school expressed their gratitude.
Nazira Romero - Principal, Trial Farm Government School
"This year's project saw the construction of four classroom buildings in Ladyville, Crooked Tree and two here in Orange Walk. These classrooms are wonderful gifts to the Belizean students and teachers. Officials from the Ministry of Health also join us in the celebration as Medical care was offered to more than 15,000 patients at 9 locations throughout Belize. I would like to begin by celebrating the hard work and the dedication of the US Military personnel, the Belizean soldiers, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health personnel."
Margaret Hawthorne - Representative, US Embassy
"During the planning and execution of this exercise, all of these organizations worked together to ensure the success of New Horizons this year and laid the foundation for another successful exercise next year when New Horizons will return to Belize. I want to thank all of our partners for their cooperation and especially thank the principal, faculty and students at all of the schools for their patience as we banged and drilled and hammered and other wise disrupted their studies. New Horizons is a training exercise conducted by U.S.. Southern Command with partners in different countries in the region. It gives U.S. Canadian and local personnel the opportunity to train together, to learn new skills and to develop the capabilities to address future challenges."
Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"I am so pleased to be a part of it and in fact it happened so quickly - it was just a few weeks ago that we inagurated/launched the initiative in Ladyville and it seemed that that time has slipped by oh so quickly but it is a testimony of course to the wonderful and efficient quality work that the arm forces of the United States and the Belize Defence force have displayed."
Hon. Gaspar Vega - Deputy Prime Minister of Belize
"These projects took just under three months for completion. The construction which started on April 1st, 2013 was a joint operation by members of U.S. airforce from Davis Monthan Base Instruction, Arizona - the Louisiana Army, National Guard and members of the BDF light engineer company. This construction project saw a rotation of seventy two BDF soldiers weekly from both the regular and volunteer elements of the force that worked alongside the over two hundred U.S. and Canadian army engineers."
Lt. Col. David Jones - Commander BDF
"Whenever we do projects like these, particularly the BDF engineers benefit a lot - we get training and experience. We have electricians, masons, carpenters, plumbers and all those skills are put into practice when they do construction with these buildings. Whenever the U.S. Southern Command has projects and they say they are going to conduct a New Horizons in Belize - I am very happy they ask if we would accept it and of course I would never turn down such an opportunity because the country benefits, our students benefit from the educational opportunities, the government benefits from the buildings and the schools and our soldiers benefit from the training experience and the comrade that we get to share with the U.S. forces."
The partners have already pledged that they will reactivate the program next year.
And as you saw in the interview, Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega was one of the keynote speakers who attend. Well, a release from the Government of Belize says that Vega, who was acting as Prime Minister, left the country of Belize later this afternoon on a personal leave.
He is expected to return on Sunday, and in his absence, Hon. John Saldivar, the Minister of National Security, will act as Prime Minister.