Yes, I know..the pun is corny. But hey, gotta switch things up sometimes 😉
Belize is a beautifully diverse country of unique cultures and traditions, rich languages, delicious food, raw nature, and so much more! Though English is considered the official language of Belize spoken by 62.9% of the population, Spanish (56.6%) and Kriol (44.6%) are the next most spoken languages followed by indigenous Mayan langauges and Garifuna, a language influenced by Carib, French, and Spanish. Even cooler, most of the population is multilingual!!! This makes the prospect of speech and language service provision an exciting one with the opportunity to provide services in English for several families. However, it also presents a challenge when considering and maintaining cultural sensitivity in evaluation and treatment. For example, when assessing a child and asking them to identify pictures, they may not know what a snowman is simply because they live in a country that doesn’t have snow and therefore they’ve never been exposed to this concept.
Now let’s talk about the need for SLPs! Presently, one full-time ASHA certified clinician provides bilingual English-Spanish services at The Inspiration Center, the first clinic in Belize to provide medical and therapeutic services which was established by the First Lady of Belize in 2014. However, this is not an easy task for one clinician alone! As awareness grows and the need increases in Belize, there is lack of access to services due to limited trained providers available, especially in small villages where access to transportation is a challenge.
Therapy Abroad, an organization providing undergrad and graduate students the opportunity to gain hands-on clinical experience abroad under the supervision of licensed therapists, has recently created a strong presence in Belize bringing students and licensed clinicians over for 2-week periods to help fill this need. This past summer, a total of 17 groups provided speech and language screenings, evaluations, and intervention in cities and villages across the country!
Read more about the Therapy Abroad experience through blog posts recalling my own experience as the Team Leader for TA’s first undergraduate programs during summer 2017!
Work and Volunteer Opportunities in Belize:
The Inspiration Center is currently seeking long-term volunteers for the speech department who are licensed, Clinical Fellows (that’s right, you can do your CFY abroad!), or qualified SLPAs.
Therapy Abroad is currently accepting applications for 2020 student programs (SLP/OT/PT). Also hiring licensed clinicians to provide supervision for student programs and new grads/clinicians who are interested in being a Team Leader for student groups! TA also offers volunteer programs for professfinal SLPs, OT, PTs, Music Therapists and more!
Helping Hands— Though not a clear-cut SLP opportunity, Helping Hands is an exceptitonal program established by the one and only Miss Emily, a proud Garifuna woman who is the true heart and soul of Belize! She created Helping Hands out of her own home and has now developed the resources and space for a summer camp and afterschool program which provides tutoring, Garifuna culture classes, free WiFi and more! WOW right! She’s always thrilled to welcome new volunteers who are eager to bring their own knowledge and skills to the table and many of her studens have been identified as having speech and language needs (hint hint, you’d be an asset to her program!). Email: email@example.com to find out moreabout ways you can help!
If you are a resident of the US, UK, Canada, EU, Caribbean or Central American countries, Belize allows you to remain in the country for 1 month with your passport only. You can renew this 30 day visa at the local immigration office. If you plan to stay longer and work/get paid, you will need to obtain a work visa and are only eligible for this permit after residing in Belize for 6 months.
-Kristin AmRhein, M.S., CCC-SLP
Follow @slpoverseas on Instagran for more fun travel SLP posts and speech and feeding therapy ideas!