|Service with a smile! Mr. Chi never loses his smile as he delivers BEL bills to the population of San Pedro.|
Every month, there are many utilities that every household or business establishment has to pay. Water, phone, cable every single one has to be paid. Especially electricity, it is a commodity, one that we can not live without. And, every month, with out fail, there is this person outside our homes reading our meters. Two weeks later he returns with a yellow slip instructing us how much we owe. How much do we know of him? We all know his smiles and the fact that he works hard but who is he? Many do not even know his name and this week we introduce to you, our readers, Mr. Sylvestre Chi – Meter reader for Belize Electricity Limited.
January 22nd, 1950 was the day Sylvestre was born in San Jose Succotz, in the Cayo District. He was the baby of a family of three sisters and two brothers. Growing up in the tiny village, Sylvestre remembers the joys of his childhood spent playing ball, climbing the many fruit trees and swimming and fishing in the nearby river.
As all the children in his village, Sylvestre attended San Jose Roman Catholic School and after completing his studies, went to work with his father in the milpa. “In that milpa we grew rice, corn, sweet potatoes among many others.” He would also assist his mother in the selling of their many fruits and vegetables. Together they would travel to San Ignacio with their colorful bounty.
When Sylvestre was 15-years-old his Godmother brought him down to San Pedro Village for a short two week visit. “What I remember is that at that time they were beginning to build the San Pedro Roman Catholic School.” They stayed on the island for their two weeks and subsequently returned home.
Returning to San Jose, Sylvestre continued his work with his father and after getting some initial on the job training, Sylvestre decided that it was time to venture out on his own.
As a young teenager, Sylvestre first got a job at Pomona, Stann Creek District, picking oranges from the orchards. He explored the country and finally settled in Corozal where he took up a job as a security guard on one of the business establishments. There he met the young lady who he would fall in love with, Petrona Kumul. As fate would have it the two were inseparable and tied the knot on December of 1971. The couple is the proud parents of one son, Aurelio Venancio Chi (34).
It wasn’t until 1992 that Sylvestre arrived in San Pedro again. “I was looking for work. So, when I came I instantly began looking for a place to stay and someone to employ me.” That he found at the San Pedro Town Board. For the next year, Sylvestre worked as a sanitation engineer for the island of San Pedro. Waking up at 3:00 a.m., Sylvestre would pick up the garbage on the cans until 2:00 p.m. “Now, those poor guys work until 7:00 p.m. most nights. I was lucky that then we did not have as much garbage as we have now,” commented Sylvestre.
Sylvestre then went to work at Playador, now Exotic Caye Beach Resort, for only four months. He began working at the Belize Electricity Limited plant as a security guard at the time when San Pedro did not count on the Hydro electric power which it uses now. When the hydro power was introduced to island residents, Sylvestre found himself without a job since the plant was being shut down and no longer needed to be secured. Fortunately for him, the Manager of the San Pedro Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) asked him if he would like to continue working for the company. Sylvestre, of course, said “yes” and began his messenger aspect of the job. “I would be at the company’s disposition to deliver items to various individuals and businesses,” he explains. For the times that his messenger services were not needed, Sylvestre would assist the linesmen with whatever they might need.
After some time, a contract position opened up at BEL, one that was offered to him and one he could not pass up. However, to accept the position, Sylvestre had to first resign from his current post at BEL. After having done this, he was re-hired, but by contract to be the official meter reader for the area, which not only included Ambergris Caye but Caye Caulker, as well. Today, Sylvestre is responsible for reading every meter in these two areas. Depending on his readings, each individual household or business is billed accordingly. From his last estimates, Sylvestre reads approximately 4,795 meters in a span of eight days. “The two worst things about my job are 1) the dogs. I don’t even know how many times I have been bitten. And, two is the fact that I ride my bicycle all the way to Blue Reef Resort on North Ambergris Caye. There are times that I have to carry my bike instead of it carrying me because of how bad the roads are. My boots get stuck in the mud holes,” he explains.
In his free time, Sylvestre enjoys taking a break and just relaxing at home. His work keeps him on the island, “it is a job that I like and it pays the bills.” Always with his cap on, riding his bicycle or hand delivering your bill, he has become a part of our lives. A nice man who loves what he does despite of the many dog bites, Mr. Sylvestre Chi keeps our lives electrified in “Our Belize Community.”