We left Belize City bright and early on Sunday morning to hop on a bright yellow school bus to begin our trek to Dangriga. We piled in with many other travellers and found ourselves squished against one another for our four hour journey. As we bounced along down the road we enjoyed some delicious Belizean donuts and bread – definitely a highlight and something that Tim Horton’s will be hard-pressed to match. We arrived in Dangriga just after noon and after exchanging a bittersweet farewell with our primary counterparts we were on our way to the Chaleanor, our home for the next two weeks!
Upon our arrival at the Chaleanor we met Chad and Eleanor, the owners and namesakes for the hostel we are living at who have been so accommodating, friendly and helpful as we settled in and developed our routine. Later that afternoon we met Marshall Mejia, Stann Creek’s HFLE coordinator. He took us out for an impromptu tour of the beautiful town of Dangriga which was much appreciated as Lisa and Meg got to see exactly where they would be teaching the following morning. Evan and Georgia had a little farther to go as their trek to class involve a 5:45am bus ride!
Lisa and Meg spent the week teaching at Delille. Delille is a school for students who were unable to gain acceptance into regular high schools, the attendance is low and behavioural issues can be a challenge. They had to adjust their lesson plans and teaching style to meet the needs of their students. Their first day had a interesting start as the principal they had been in contact with had left and his replacement had no idea they were coming! Their arrival was characterized by quizzical looks and ultimately a trip back to the Chaleanor as the teaching shorts they had on needed to be replaced with pants. Luckily the girls were given the bikes of two students and though they were a little small and Meg was almost hitting her knees to her chin, they got the girls back much quicker than walking. The rest of the week went by much more smoothly as they were given four life skills classes – three Form 1 classes and one Form 3 class (our equivalent to grades 9 and 11). The first day the girls taught Communication and Meg did not need to brush her teeth for a while after being the alien in the Alien toothbrush activity four times! This activity forced students to communicate the exact steps of tooth brushing to the Peer Educators, who were blindfolded aliens (and therefore could not see and had no idea what a toothbrush or toothpaste was)! Some of the more memorable moments of their week include Lisa trying to peer pressure the students into taking some “dog poo” (as it is really good for your hair) in their peer pressure lesson, watching and giving hints to help the Form 3 students figure out the Condom Relay (where students tried to order the 10 steps to proper condom use), and the students preoccupation with “Oh Canada” and their personal lives back home. The “are you twins?” or “are you friends?” or “do you have a boyfriend?” questions came up quite a bit! The girls taught healthy sexual relationships, substance abuse, peer pressure and bullying throughout the week. After a successful first week at Delille, the pair look forward to getting back in the classroom tomorrow morning at Independence High.
Georgia and Evan spent this week travelling to Georgetown Technical High School, about an hour away from where we are staying in Dangriga. The 5 am wakeup – which was difficult at first – was well worth the ride after meeting the accommodating faculty and lively students. This beautiful school had a student body with a passion for learning and a strong desire to succeed, which made our job very enjoyable. By the end of the first day, Georgia left with fresh breath and sparkling white teeth as she played the role of the “alien” who didn’t know how to brush her teeth in an “Effective Communication” based exercise. Throughout the week we were able to engage the students in lessons concerning substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, healthy sexual relations, risky activities, pregnancy and peer pressure. Students were especially captivated by the HIV/AIDS graph, which served to explain what is happening inside the body as HIV progresses into AIDS. Evan and Georgia had the pleasure of teaching seven Form 1 and Form 2 classes. They also had the opportunity to work with the president and vice presidents of each class in Forms 1, 2 and 3 to form a leadership group. They spent time each day discussing effective communication, peer education and both long and short-term goals. It was an absolute privilege to engage in such a lively discussion with these students. At the end of the week, Jason Wagner, the school counselor, helped us create certificates that we ceremoniously handed out to the leadership students on the final day. Evan and Georgia felt extremely grateful to be working with Jason through out the week. His incredible passion and dedication towards his role in the school is truly admirable. He displayed great interest in having QHO return to Georgetown to further establish the leadership program; plans are now in the works for the Secondary project to return next spring to continue working with the Leadership group.
Overall, we are all enjoying Chaleanor’s beautiful rooftop patio which serves as a perfect space for lesson planning, the amazing Belizean food (especially the refreshing watermelon juice, ceviche, beans and rice, and rice and beans-yes there is a difference) and all the wonderful people here in Dangriga.
Happy Sunday everyone! Hope all is well at home, we miss you!
Emily, Evan, Georgia, Lisa, Meg