Green Reef receives grant cheque

Pictured above is Janet Gibson of Costal Zone Management, who is handing the cheque to Mito Paz of Green Reef. Phillip Balderamos, National Coordinator of GEF small grants programme is on the right.

Green Reef Educational Environmental and Costal Research Institute on June 23rd, at the Amigos Del Mar Dive Shop in San Pedro Town, was presented with $35,000.00 BZ. from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) small grants committee through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The cheque is the first part of a $70,000 grant.

Green Reef members were joined by the GEF, Costal Zone Management, University College of Belize (UCB), San Pedro Town Board, Hol Chan, Amigos Del Mar Dive Shop, Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT), San Pedro branch of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), community supporter and the San Pedro Sun for the presentation ceremonies.

Master of Ceremonies was Mr. Einer Gomez, President of the San Pedro Branch of the Belize Tourism Industry Association. Mr. Gomez welcomed the gathering and introduced Counselor Eiden Salazar who gave the Welcoming Address. "Welcome on behalf to the San Pedro Town Board to La Isla Bonita. The San Pedro Town Board strongly endorses and supports this project and congratulations to all those involved."

Mito Paz, chairman and founder of Green Reef, thanked the GEF for their support and for their generous donation to Green Reef. "Thank you," he said and went on to explain a little about the project. "... it actually compliments community based environmental programmes that operate on a larger scale such as Costal Zone Management. We plan to work and learn from them. The project plans are to bring awareness of our natural heritage into schools and the community in general. Long term solutions will depend on educating our children."

Philip Balderamos, National Coordinator of GEF small grants programme, addressed the gathering and said that the day was one of importance and marked an important moment in the life of San Pedro and GEF small grants programme. "It is vital not only to the economy of San Pedro but it is significant to the environment and the well being of the island. I must commend Green Reef on formulating and developing the project to educate students, tour guides, dive operators and the general community of San Pedro." He also mentioned the efforts of SIWA-BAN to place mooring buoys near the reef to protect it from anchoring damage caused by boats. SIWA-BAN, a nature preservation group based in Caye Caulker, was named after the endangered Black Catbird which is "SIWA-BAN" in Yucatec Maya. He encouraged Green Reef to cooperate with SIWA-BAN and to work with them in order to learn from the experiences they have acquired throughout the years. Mr. Balderamos ended by thanking the Town Board and Green Reef for their continuous support.

Mustafa Toure, head of the UCB Marine Research Center, spoke briefly on the importance of Green Reef and that the protective measures being worked on were important not only to San Pedro but to the world. He mentioned the importance of SIWA-BAN and their efforts to install buoys along the reef. He reminded the gathering that the Barrier Reef was an important protective barrier against storms and hurricanes. Mr. Toure congratulated Green Reef on its success to access funds available to programs such as Green Reef, and encouraged Mr. Paz to continue the good work.

Umberto Parredez of PACT reminded those present that although GEF and UNDP should be thanked for their generous contribution, we should all remember that when these projects cease to exist then PACT will continue to act in the best interest of the country and continue to support projects such as Green Reef. Mr. Parredez encouraged Mr. Paz to assist smaller and newer projects. "Lend a helping hand to the smaller projects who need guidance. Those new projects coming up need to have someone to help them as they go along. The other projects that have been successful should help those who are just starting. We have a tendency in Belize to not want to help each other but by doing so we can accomplish great things. Let us not think of it as being a competition but let's work together. I wish you success in the project and in your future endeavors."

MC Gomez introduced Janet Gibson from Costal Zone Management who presented a cheque of $35,000.00 BZ. to Mr. Paz of Green Reef. Mrs. Gibson mentioned that Green Reef indeed complimented their projects and that there was need for a project of its kind. "San Pedro had a crying need for such a project as Green Reef because of the rapid development taking place on the island. Green Reef is looking at the issues and addressing them, especially through education, which is very important." Mrs. Catherine Paz, wife of Mito Paz, closed by thanking all who attended and gave their support.

The $35,000.00 BZ is only the first of three increments that will be given to Green Reef. After the $35,000.00 has been issued a follow up report will be submitted and then the 2nd increment of $28,000.00 and then a 3rd and final increment of $7,000 will be issued.

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