Our Community - Deborah Sharleen Phillips - "Discovering her destiny through dance"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 44            November 27, 2003

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Deborah Sharleen Phillips

That makes Belize so unique, apart from its natural beauty, are the people who have chosen this place as their home. Belize boasts various ethnic groups as well as a large number of people from all corners of the world who have immigrated to this part of Central America. Many who visit Ambergris Caye find love at first sight. Some of these people cannot forget this island paradise and they return to stay. This week, The San Pedro Sun is pleased to introduce a woman who has found a home in San Pedro - Deborah Sharleen Phillips.

    Deborah was born in San Francisco, California on January 14th, 1950 to Kenneth and Colleen Phillips. She grew up with an older brother, challenging him with confidence while playing sports and the many different activities of childhood. Deborah recalls that her mom started making her wear her brother's old clothes because she would tear her dresses whenever she would play. Despite her tomboy behavior, Deborah was always at the top of her class throughout her elementary school years.

    As Deborah attended Westmoor High School her lifestyle changed. She forgot about that tomboy girl, and grew to be a fine and beautiful young lady. She described her years at Westmoor High as unforgettable; busy maintaining her grades, active in sports and like any other teenage girl; she had a high school sweetheart. Nevertheless, she did not slip off track, both graduating and marrying her sweetheart in 1968. Since Deborah and her husband were both "Earth children" and backpackers, they traveled around quite a bit. Moving further north, they enrolled at Sacramento State University and majored in psychology. Keeping up with their hobby as backpackers, they scheduled their weekends for mountain hiking, enjoying spectacular areas like the Grand Canyon and the Sierra Mountains. The two loved mountain climbing as well, which made Deborah recall several breathtaking experiences. Unfortunately, after a time, Deborah and her high school sweetie separated and both went their own ways. Immediately after her separation, she moved to the east coast where she gave birth to a baby girl, Alanna.

    A lover of dance, Deborah took up ballet classes during her stay in Massachusetts. A "natural" performer, her dance teacher said she was gifted, so Deborah set her sights on becoming a professional dancer. After three years of living in New England, she moved back to the San Francisco Bay area and completed additional dance training. She attended Sonoma State University for four years, majoring in theatre arts. Crazy about performing, Deborah exclaimed, "I performed in five different dance companies, sometimes, two at time." Her performances took her to places like New York, Washington DC, Virginia, and theatres throughout the state of California.

    Deborah's dance career was exactly what she wanted, but the income was not enough to support her and Alanna. So, she used her knowledge to become employed as a dance teacher, dance studio manager, stage manager and light board operator in order to earn additional income. When Deborah's daughter turned 18, she finally realized how many years had passed and that teaching dance and performing were becoming more difficult as well. Little by little, she gave up her career and explored other areas where she could build a stable life.

    Deborah found a completely different job at a company that specialized in landscape design, and discovered she enjoyed it very much. Luckily, it provided her with much more money, which made life easier for her and Alanna. She also became a certified yoga instructor and taught classes in her spare time. Deborah explained that yoga gave her a feeling of "connection" to a part of her that she dearly missed - dancing. She describes yoga as a very spiritual healing activity, with lots of deep meditation that cleanses the mind and body, and promotes good health.

    A couple of years into her new job, Deborah felt the need for a vacation to take her mind off her busy way of life in the US. In 1993, she visited Belize; first stopping at Caye Caulker for a couple days. When she found San Pedro though, she immediately fell in love. Deborah felt she needed an extreme change from life in the US and could easily adapt to the peaceful life of the island. Upon her return to the States, Deborah had only wonderful things to say about "La Isla Bonita," and had no other thoughts or plans for the next year but to return with her daughter to live in San Pedro. Since her daughter had just recently graduated from high school, she chose to stay behind with her grandmother, so Deborah set out on her own to her paradise destination. In 1994, Deborah's dreams came true, only she was alone now, but not for long. She immediately made friends with the island people and began enjoying life as a Belizean. Giving yoga lessons on the island was the only thing she could do at first. Deborah volunteered to give yoga classes to the schools on the island while she waited for her work permit. She was able to provide her services to Alida's School and soon after, she became a kindergarten teacher. In 1995, Deborah applied for another job and was hired at The Island Academy to teach beginner students in the morning and art classes in the afternoon. Within two years, she began teaching Infant I students as well, and eventually became vice principal. To maintain her connections to dance, Deborah continues to give yoga lessons. She also spends time with her daughter and three-year-old granddaughter Chloe, who live with her now.

    The people and beauty of Ambergris Caye continue to capture the hearts of many who come to visit the island and always will. Deborah is one of those and comments, "I have found my home here in Belize, and I have fallen in love again. Belize saved me from the stressful life in the US. The people here love and respect me, and I feel the same."

    However, next year, Deborah and her family will be leaving the island so her daughter can enroll in nursing school, something Alanna has always wanted to do. Deborah says that she will be certain to return to the island after her daughter completes school, and she will indeed miss her dear home and the many wonderful children of "Our Community."

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