Our Community - Vicky Nelder - "The 'Designing Woman' of San Pedro

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 2            January 11, 2001

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Vicky Nelder

The proper planning and development of a town such as San Pedro is of vital importance. Proper infrastructure and supervised construction is crucial so it does not interfere with or harm the natural environment. This week we are happy to introduce a person whose work in the field of architecture has contributed a lot to the growth of our island - Mrs. Vicky Nelder.

    Vicky is truly a Pan-American girl. She was born in Chile and grew up in various places in South America such as Brazil, Peru and Colombia. Coming from a family of architects, she enrolled at the Andes University in Colombia where she received her Architectural Degree and Master's Degree in Urban Planning. Vicky was also interested in flying and worked hard to receive her commercial pilot license. As a pilot, she found that learning to speak English would be very beneficial so this became her next goal. With much practice she learned the language. Her travels took her to England and eventually Aruba and Barbados where she polished her English-speaking skills.

    While living in Barbados, Vicky became very interested in the protection of the environment, as this also was of keen interest to Barbadians, who strive to protect their coastal areas, flora and fauna. Vicky felt that by attaining a Master's degree in Landscape Architecture she could do her part to protect the environment and went in search of a college to achieve this. After careful consideration, she moved to Ontario, Canada where she received her degree from the University of Guelph. After graduation, Vicky married Cliff Nelder, a Canadian pilot whom she had met while in Barbados. Having found both love and good career opportunities there, Mrs. Nelder remained in Canada working as a planner and architect. She also taught construction and worked intensely on Environmental Impact Assessments. Whenever opportunities arose for Vicky to move away from the cold, she gladly accepted jobs in warmer climates like Singapore and Indonesia.

    Vicky first visited Belize in 1985 when she took her landscaping students on a class trip to Mexico. Being so close to Belize she decided to make a short visit to Belize City and Caye Caulker. Vicky was amazed at the primitive, laid-back lifestyle here and instantly knew she wanted to return. In 1994, she returned with Cliff to dive the barrier reef, after being told that San Pedro was the best place for this, and by her third day in San Pedro she had made up her mind to stay. Everything Vicky enjoyed was right here; wonderful job potential, an excellent climate and friendly people. To strengthen this decision, while strolling down the main street of San Pedro, she entered the office of an engineer and playfully inquired whether he needed an architect. To her surprise, she was told that there was no resident architect on the island and that one was needed. This response sealed her decision to remain in La Isla Bonita. 

    After finishing all her business in Canada, she permanently relocated to San Pedro in September 1994. At first, Vicky says, it was difficult because she did not know anyone and in those times it was not common for women to do this type of work. Nevertheless, she was determined to prove herself and continued to pursue her career. She recalls that her first big break came after Mr. Romel Gomez of Ruby's Hotel offered her the opportunity to build his home. Upon completion of that job, Vicky's skills were sought after by many local businesses such as the Belize Yacht Club, Mata Chica Resort, Island Supermarket and Sunset Beach Resort.

    Unfortunately not everything has always gone smoothly for Vicky. In December of 1999 she lost all her possessions and all the work she had accumulated for the past twenty years in a disastrous fire. Once again, her strong will power and determination put her back on her feet and she has managed to conquer obstacles in her way. Vicky has also been very involved with the community, offering her services to the San Pedro Town Council, people with limited resources and most recently, SAGA Society, the non-profit "humane society" in San Pedro.

    Mrs. Nelder commented, "My job does not only consist of designing buildings and making blueprints, it means installing safety factors and taking into consideration the building's environment. A professional architect needs to look at the pros and cons that come with building." Vicky's friends keep asking her  why she chose San Pedro as her home and she replies that one only needs to look around to find the answer. She is a welcomed professional who adds  expertise and integrity to the design and planning of "Our Community."

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