After a week and a half of meaningful hard work, the Therapy Abroad team hopped on a boat and cruised to Caye Caulker. The emerald green waters of the island were all too inviting as we made our way to our hotel, La Isla Resort.
View from the La Isla’s beach front
Before diving into the island fun, we made a visit to a local elementary school that is unique in every way imaginable when compared to the typical Belizean schools. Founded by Dr. Alberto Luis August, La Isla Cariñosa Academy was developed out of a need to change the standards of education in Belize. Born and raised in Caye Caulker, Dr. August obtained his PhD in Education from the University of North Florida. Following his worldly travels, he was inspired to incorporate the educational values found in schools of developed countries into schools of Belize. Principal August and his wife, Valerie August, Vice Principal of the private school, shared with us the typical conditions of schools in Belize—no AC in a stuffy classroom despite humid 90* heat, teachers lacking higher education and managing a class of 30 students independently, corporal punishment inflicted on children who misbehave, and no alternative teaching strategies integrated into the curriculum for a child with learning difficulties or special needs. Worried for their own daughter’s education, they created a school with an environment that is conducive to learning and caters to the needs of individual students.
Dr. August sharing about his unique school
Touring La Isla Cariñosa Academy
Chad and Chester showing off the educational wall art
The future spot for a rooftop playground
La Isla Cariñosa Academy is the only inclusion school in Belize which supports the needs of students with Autism, language impairments and learning difficulties. Each classroom is limited to 15 students and is equipped with AC and windows for natural sunlight. Positive reinforcement is emphasized and corporal punishment is non-existent. You can find educational artwork painted on the walls of the school and a recreational yard used for recess. Principal August plans to further develop the school’s campus and construction for a rooftop playground is underway. Therapy Abroad is excited to build their relationship with the innovative couple and work as a team to support Dr. and Mrs. August in identifying students with speech and language needs and providing training and support within the classroom environment.
Dr. and Mrs. August, founders of this exemplary private school
After the visit to the exemplary school, it was time for our vacation to officially begin! We took to the sea where we snorkeled alongside the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world and even swam with sharks!
Swimming with nurse sharks!
And swimming with stingrays!
Snorkeling alongside the Belize Barrier Reef!
Day 13—Our Last Night Together
After 2 relaxing nights on the island of Caye Caulker, we headed back for one last evening at Monkey Bay. After dinner, we danced around the campfire to traditional Creole drumming and learned some new moves!
Learning to drum
And just like that, group 1’s time in Belize has come to an end. Crazy to think that in just two weeks, a group of students and staff who knew nothing about each other could form such strong bonds and lasting relationships by the end of the trip! We worked together–we lived together–we played together–we killed bugs together. But most importantly, as a team, we raised awareness of speech, language and feeding therapy in a country where special needs and disability is stigmatized and poorly understood. Together we collaborated with local professionals to expand the current services provided to support our clients and their families and in the process we grew as individuals and clinicians.
To all those students and staff who were part of Therapy Abroad’s first group, well done! I am proud to have been your Team Leader and already miss everyone! Same time next year?!
That’s a wrap with Therapy Abroad’s first group in Belize!
I am looking forward to working with the next two groups and seeing the new ideas they bring to Communication Camp and the entire experience in Belize this August!
Until then, it’s back to NYC for the next 2 weeks for a little summer fun and R&R!
Stay tuned for our Belizean adventures in August!
Your SLP Overseas,
Kristin AmRhein, M.S. CCC-SLP