Today, the Therapy Abroad team made a trip into Belmopan, the capital of Belize. Our first stop was a visit to Helping Hands, an educational resource center created by Miss Emily to support the learning needs of Belizean students. During the visit, she told us about the challenges students of all ages face to receive a good education in Belize. She shared with us that many students in Belize do not continue on to high school and some even discontinue their education after elementary school. Several cultural and economic factors influence this decision and Miss Emilyâ€™s mission is to provide free educational support at Helping Hands. Furthermore, she aims to unlock the learning potential of all students she works with by improving their literacy skills and encouraging them to think about their future selves and what they aspire to be when they grow up in the hopes that they will continue to seek out a good education as they get older.
As a proud Garifuna woman, Miss Emily shared about the origins of her people and their presence in Belize then sang a song in the Garifuna language. After bringing tears to our eyes with her passion for education and her culture, she took us to meet the children who were attending the summer tutoring program she set up for those who were identified as falling behind in school. The Therapy Abroad students and staff broke into small groups with the kids based on their age and academic levels. We spent the next hour or so getting to know our kiddos and eliciting language opportunities through the interests of each individual child. We met kids who love singing, pretending, writing and drawing. We met young students who aspire to become teachers and the older students shared their dreams of becoming a lawyer in the future to support their families. Two things all of these children had in commonâ€”enthusiasm to learn and lots of love to give!
In the afternoon, we took a trip to a local market where we explored the fruits and goods, ate some local grub, and took a much needed coffee break!
Dinner at Jungle Creek
After some afternoon R&R, we headed to Jungle Creek for a dinner with Pathlight, an organization who’s mission is to ensure that secondary education is made accessible to all children in Belize. As previously mentioned, many children do not go on to continue their high school education because unlike elementary years, high school is not free and many families cannot afford to send their children to school. As a result, Pathlight setup a program called Sponsorship+ which allows individuals to sponsor a child by providing monthly financial support to cover fees such as tuition, transportation, school supplies, tutoring and so on. To fully sponsor a child costs $200/month.
Pathlight also provides teacher training to local teachers to build on their own education and teaching strategies. This July, Pathlight will hold their annual Teacher Training Conference and Therapy Abroad’s SLPs and Behavior Therapist will attend to provide education and training in these specialties.
During our dinner we had the opportunity to meet 3 Pathlight students who are being sponsored by the Therapy Abroad team!
That wraps up week 1! Time for some weekend fun exploring Mayan ruins, cave tubing and ziplining!
Kristin AmRhein, M.S. CCC-SLP