Feelin Crisp in the City

Dangriga will most definitely be missed – all the students we’ve had the opportunity to teach, the friendly atmosphere, the family who owns the Chaleanor and the delicious food (especially Evan’s all time favorite: the burritos at “Da Grill”) contributed to an unforgettable two weeks. Our farewell was bittersweet as though Dangriga will be missed we are super excited about continuing project in Belize City! 

Evan and Georgia must admit that they enjoyed having access to coffee in the morning this week as their wake up call was quite a bit later than lasts week’s. They taught at IT Vet Secondary School located about 15 minutes out of Dangriga. With the same group of students each day, Georgia and Evan had the opportunity to focus on various lessons ranging from communication and values, to substance abuse and peer pressure. Their fabulous Project Director Emily also provided a brief, but very engaging puberty lesson that focused on the women’s reproductive system and pregnancy. One of the highlights from this week included “smoking aerobics”; this activity demonstrated the harmful effects of smoking, as students found it extremely hard to breathe as they ran around outside while plugging their noses taking breaths only through a straw. Another highlight of the week included a final game of Jeopardy summarizing each topic Georgia and Evan covered through out the week. Students really enjoyed, and were very intrigued by the creative aspects of this game. Some examples included skits, guiding blindfolded teammates to objects (with the use a effective communication skills), and even some singing for bonus points!!

Evan and Georgia did not teach on Friday as they were helping run a BFLA day. The Belize Family and Life Association, one of the organizations QHO partners with is a great resource for community members as it offers free HIV testing, inexpensive STI testing, and breast screenings (equivalent to Planned Parenthood). The open BFLA day on Friday had an emphasis on teenage pregnancy, especially since the Stann Creek district (includes Dangriga) has the highest percentage of teenage pregnancies under the ages of 18 and 15. Georgia and Emily created posters on the teen pregnancy statistics. Since it is breast cancer awareness month in Belize, Evan excelled in his artistic abilities as he crafted super awesome card board breast cancer ribbons to hang at the event. Throughout the day, Evan, Georgia, and Emily were responsible for running games for anyone who popped by; the interactive games provided information on healthy sexual relationships, STIs, and proper condom use.

This past week, Meg and Lisa taught at Independence High School (IHS). Their mornings were early, hopping on the teacher bus at 5:45. When they arrived at the school they met with the Principal, who introduced them to Mr. Japhet Torres. Mr. Torres help them set up a tentative schedule for the rest of the week. The next morning they finalized their schedule with Mr. Karl Burke, the guidance counsellor and one of the Life-skills teachers. Mr. Burke introduced them to Mr. Westby, a life-skills teacher, to inquire about teaching some of his classes. Mr. Westby was interested in seeing what QHO had to offer so he sat in on the Effective Communication lesson they had prepared for one of his first form classes. After the class they sat down with Mr. Westby who was ecstatic about what they had just taught! He was very generous and gave them his entire week of classes! The girls were also fortunate enough to cover three classes from another teacher, Mr. Melendrez. In total, they taught six first form classes and one second form class. They taught the first form classes lessons on effective communication, healthy sexual relationships, HIV/AIDS, and substance abuse. For the second form class, the girls taught Belizean Red Cross material as the students were being tested on it. Luckily the material was very similar to a QHO lesson that they had already taught. At the end of the week the girls were surprised with official IHS lanyards and pins. Both Lisa and Meg were very appreciative of how accommodating and friendly the staff at IHS were.

A highlight of the week for Lisa and Meg was combining the healthy sexual relationships lesson with the HIV/AIDS lesson. They had never taught these lessons together, so it was very interesting and fun to pick and choose from both lessons to make a lesson that was tailored based on the students’ request. As mentioned above, the district of Stann Creek has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in all of Belize, so the students were very enthusiastic and interested in the healthy sexual relationships lesson. Students were especially interested in, and had many questions about effective and proper condom use.

Lisa and Meg also tried a new activity with their substance abuse lesson. To demonstrate the effects of drug use on not only yourself, but those around you, and on other important aspects of life, they asked a student to try and keep up a number of balloons that represented different aspects of life (family, friends, hobbies, job, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine). The student started with one balloon that said family, and was tossed other balloons. As more and more balloons were tossed to the student, it became harder and harder to keep all of the balloons in the air. They even had a second student to come up and try and help their friend keep all the balloons in the air. This activity was meant to represented how drugs and alcohol can cause other important life aspects to be placed on the back burner (i.e. Balloons being dropped on the floor).

Lisa and Meg had a wonderful time at IHS. The students were constantly engaged and respectful in class, and the staff were very welcoming and enthusiastic about the girls being there. And though it was quite hot during the day, Lisa and Meg managed the heat by eating large pieces of watermelon for lunch!

On Saturday we were so excited to spend a day with our primary counterparts who have been teaching in Punta Gorda for the past two weeks. Since both of the secondary schools we were teaching in were outside of Dangriga and most students were bussed in from many different cities and towns, it was difficult to hold a games day this past weekend, so we created a fun games day for ourselves! The first annual QHO Dangriga Olympics were held between Primary and Secondary and we had a blast. Shout out to Primary for bringing it in the home stretch.

Today was bittersweet as we said goodbye to our wonderful PD Emily (aka mom). Emily has been an amazing mentor, leader, and friend over the past year. She put her heart and soul into helping us become better teachers and Peer Educators. We can’t wait to see what next year has in store for QHO as she is one of the fabulous incoming Co-directors! Thanks so much Em, we miss you already!

Although it was hard to say goodbye to Emily, we are excited (and nervous!) to start making project our own. For the next two weeks we are in Belize City. For the entirety of our stay, all four of us will be teaching at the YWCA in the morning. This week, Meg and Georgia will be teaching at Sadie Vernon, and Evan and Lisa will be teaching at Excelsior. We are so excited to see what Belize City and it’s schools have to offer! Until next week, remember that we still havin’ one gud gud time,
Esqueeze, George, Lizz, and Meg

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