Belize is no longer a small, obscure country. Instead, it is garnering more international popularity every day. Belize is fast becoming a booming tourism nation, retirement country, and one which many Central American people seek to for refuge, jobs and a better life for themselves and their children. As any growing nation, with many outside and international influences, holding on to culture and tradition becomes increasingly difficult. Holding on to one’s native language or dialect eventually becomes like a losing battle. One individual that is not letting Belize’s Kriol language slip into oblivion is no other than Silvana Woods, a lecturer at the University of Belize, who is also the lead creative writer and owner of Kriol Gyal Media Prodokshans.
Born in Belize’s old capital, Belize City, on September 7th, 1960, Silvana now lives in the quite neighborhood of Vista del Mar, in Ladyville. Along with her six sisters and one brother, her parents, Charles and Edith Woods, believed in providing a sound education for all their children. She remembers how much her parents sacrificed to ensure she pursued her dreams of further education.
After completing her elementary studies, Silvana attended the all girls’ catholic school of Saint Catherine’s Academy. There, she was known throughout campus for her poetry and, as documented in one of the school’s Yearbooks, was labeled as the ‘bard’ of S.C.A.
Graduating successfully from St. Catherine’s, Silvana became enthralled by the radio and media business and became a member of the Radio Belize family. There she worked as an assistant in the Music Library, Production Department and News Room for the next three years making 1979 her final year. While there, Silvana also got the opportunity to produce and present a children’s show called Fun Time.
However, Silvana got an opportunity to study abroad and she knew that it was a venture that she could not let pass by. Silvana left Belize en route to Miami, Florida, USA to attend Biscayne University, now known as St. Thomas University, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in English in 1981. That summer Silvana returned home and got a job as an information officer for the Government of Belize.
Silvana knew that her heart lay somewhere else and applied at St. Catherine’s Academy for the position of teacher. Receiving the post, for the next four years she taught English, Literature and History at the esteemed institution, her alma mater. Silvana never lost sight of what she enjoyed and she worked as a part-time radio producer and presenter of various programs at Radio Belize. She kept growing and eventually extended her repertoire and produced and presented a Women’s Hour radio show.
Silvana’s education and training continued throughout the years and in 1986 she received a certificate in Caribbean Media Issues which was hosted by the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica, as well as a certificate in an Adult Literacy Workshop which was hosted by the Commonwealth of Learning in St. Lucia and Antigua. In 1987, after having gone back to school, Silvana received her Master’s Degree in Language Education from the Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, USA. In the 1980’s upon her return to Belize, Silvana also had some brief impact on San Pedrano sporting activities, when she was the secretary of the then Windsurfing Association, which operated from the beach in front of what is now the Sunbreeze Hotel.
Receiving many certificates, diplomas and awards, Silvana began developing literacy materials on her mother tongue, the Belize Kriol Language, a project that after twelve years is still on-going. With her research and development, this project was soon placed into effect when she conducted and participated in numerous English-As-A- Second Language workshops held at the University of Belize and several of its pre-amalgamated colleges, the Peace Corps Language Unit and at the URACCAN University in Bluefields, Nicaragua.
After delving in the teaching profession, radio and video documentaries, Silvana figured it was now time to explore the TV industry and in 1991 she received a diploma in Basic Television Production from the International Institute for the Training of Journalists in Budapest, Hungary. With that diploma under her belt she helped to pioneer a certificate course for practicing journalists in Belize at the University of the West Indies, Belize’s School of Continuing Studies.
Kriol Gyal Prodokshans was born in 1992 and through this venture the National Kriol Council of Belize was formed in 1995. The purpose of the National Kriol Council of Belize is to promote the culture and language of the Kriol people of Belize, as well as harmony among all the ethnic groups of Belize. The National Kriol Council of Belize is a legally registered, not for profit company in Belize with limited liability. The Council is registered as a cultural group with the National Arts Council of Belize.
In 1999, Silvana also successfully earned a diploma from a Television Seminar presented in Quito, Equador – the course name “La Television frente a los desafios del siglo XXI” (Television facing the challenges of the XXI Century).
Throughout the years, Silvana has kept a strong TV, radio and print presence but she keeps working arduously to demolish the Kriol language barriers and states that one of her biggest accomplishments is the documented public acceptance of Kriol as one of Belize’s first languages/mother tongues. It was cemented even more when in the 1996 Language Policy of Belize, Prime Minister Said Musa acknowledged this fact in his ministerial address to the June 2003 National education Council.
With many things on her plate, Silvana makes time to spend with her 14-year-old daughter, Robin Schaffer. She also enjoys reading and plans to receive her Doctorate in Education in the near future, particularly as she now lectures in Language, Communication and Education at the University of Belize. Always busy fighting a wonderful cause as is our Kriol history, a fun individual and loving mother, Silvana Woods is a strong, independent, intellectual, beautiful woman, a true role model in “Our Belize Community.”