It is always wonderful to find people interested in the well-being of the Belizean youth. It is always greater to find an individual that not only cares about their education but cares to the extent to try and make education a higher priority to students.
About a year ago, Ian Anderson of the Caves Branch Jungle Lodge came up with an idea to help in the education of disadvantaged children. His initial plan was to help create an organization that would offer support and encouragement to students who were in danger of failing their classes or dropping out of school. After presenting his idea to several towns and having the response be minimal, Anderson was not deterred. His efforts began to see fruition when he started his project with 20 students from the Belmopan Comprehensive School.
These students were in danger of failing altogether if they did not meet certain requirements. With the help of the project BADCATS, teachers and other members of Belmopan Town, these students were given extra attention and encouragement to continue studying. This followed the philosophy of the BADCATS organization which explains that children who are at the brink of dropping out of school or failing entirely will improve their attitude if given the right attention. Essentially, the use of the proverbial “dangling carrot” can help immensely.
The students who were chosen to participate in this program were given several goals to meet. After accomplishing the first set of goals, they were taken to Caves Branch Jungle Lodge for a mini-retreat as a reward for having proved themselves capable of passing and meeting goals. However, to merit a bigger reward they had to meet the final goal, which was to pass their respective class and/or graduate. 16 of the 20 children passed! Their hard work and dedication was justly rewarded with a three-day trip to San Pedro Town, where they experienced snorkeling, and parasailing, amongst other fun-filled island activities.
While to many it may seem unfair that only certain children are being given this sort of attention, society has to bear in mind that these children were in danger of dropping out of school entirely and would probably not have had a bright future. With this program, the idea that there is something else out there for these disadvantaged children means that it is worth the extra effort to try. It is completely up to the students themselves whether to take up the offer and make good use of it. As is proven in their visit to “La Isla Bonita” this past week, those who were offered the program have taken advantage of it. The extra hour of studying after school, the keen attention in class, plus extra personal effort and optimism has certainly paid off.
In an interview with The San Pedro Sun, Anderson commented, “There is a definite change, not only in grades, but in attitude, as well. The children are focusing more and are eager to experience more. The students have even begun playing chess. Last Tuesday, there was a friendly championship game held amongst all the children, and student Mario Portillo won. Just another success to show what a little attention and care can do. Mario’s prize was a weekend stay at Banana Bank Lodge with his entire family.Where many have given up, the project BADCATS has picked up and helped in guidance, along with the valuable assistance of several businesses and establishments who obviously appreciate the work in the continuing education of Belizean youths.
Kudos to the team of teachers and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this program a success! Special congratulations to the students in their wonderful achievement. The San Pedro Sun and BADCATS would like to thank the sponsors who made the three-day trip a reality: Tropic Air, Belizean Shores (Doug Penland), Pauly’s Pizza, Tuff E Nuff Tours, Fido’s Restaurant, Fido’s Parasailing and the Caves Branch Jungle Lodge. A big thank you also goes out to Rosalie Staines of Open Paki, (Blue Luna Productions), for helping to create awareness of this wonderful project!