As promised, here are some pictures from our time in Belize this January!
Here is a photo of the Hummingbird Hostel:
I wasn't lying, was I? Its beautiful!
Getting into More Tomorrow was a little difficult because we had to ford a river crossing the road everyday...
But once we were in the village, these are a couple of the homes we saw:
And some of the local wildlife...
We were there taking water samples and conducting health surveys:
Standing water is a huge problem there in the village. They do not have a proper drainage system, and several of us were unprepared for trecking through the mud...
Their pastor, however, has taken matters into his own hands and built a drainage system on his own land
If we can get the whole village as motivated as Pastor Rudy, then the standing water issue will be resolved in only one dry season! Just long enough for us to get down there, give them the technical training and a few examples, and then let them take over!
The rainwater catchment system varies from house to house. Some have rather advanced systems with large tanks, others have rusty barrels. One of our translators, Jose, had constructed his own well.
Here also are some examples of the latrines they are using. We have also taken on latrine construction as another technical skill that we would like to help the people of More Tomorrow with.
We established some awesome relationships while we were there. Annie spoke in Spanish to everyone she met, and really gained a lot of respect. they made fun of her american accent, but appreciated her trying. She was an absolute rockstar.
We went to church there on Sunday night, and it was the most involved service I had ever experienced. I didn't grow up going to church, but I have been a few times, and this was like none other. Everyone prayed aloud, several members of the community went up and spoke, including two women. Children played in the back of the church and the acoustics were terrible, but it was still amazing.
This is one of our new friends. I personally think this photo belongs in National Geographic. Its just too precious.
We would come back to the hostel in the evenings and sit on the balcony and discuss what we had learned that day and our strategy for the next.
And, again, I wasn't lying when I said we visited the Peace Corps. This is Jake, he has actually been accepted to the Peace Corps, and after this semester he is expecting to be stationed in Mozambique Africa for two years.
U of A represent!
Though we were sad that it was over, we were ready to head back to the states. Plus, we had been eaten alive while we were there...
And finally, AEA for the win!!!
Until next time,
Arkansas Engineers Abroad Public Relations Co- Chair
My name is Erin
Cooper. Sarah Kiner and I are the new Public Relations Co-Chairs for Arkansas
Engineers Abroad this semester! There is a lot to get caught up on, and I will
probably take the next few weeks straightening everything out and getting this
blog up and running again.
first, we went to Belize again! We arrived on December 31st, 2013 and spent the
New Year at the Hummingbird Hostel about 30 minutes west of Belmopan. It was
beautiful; all nestled back into the forest in between the mountains. We highly
recommend it if you decide to travel to Belize. It was centrally located, and
the owners were very kind and accommodating.
This time around
we conducted health surveys and water sampling in More Tomorrow. We split into
three groups; Jake Pitts and Claire Stewart went with our translator Terrence;
Kimberly Cribbs and Sarah accompanied Jose; and Max Blanchard, Colby Lowery
(our PeaceWork coordinator, more on her later), and Annie Makuch went without a
translator with Annie doing all the surveys in Spanish. She was amazing- the
whole village loved her! I tagged along with Jake and Claire; Michael Reinisch
followed Kim and Sarah. We took water samples while they interviewed the
families. We sampled 24 locations, including nearly every rainwater catchment
system in the village, the creek, the river, and a standing water sample. We
were sampling for heavy metal residue. We brought the samples back stateside
and took them to Brian Haggard at the Water Resources Lab here in Fayetteville.
Overall, the water sample results indicate that there is no residual buildup of
metals in the water supply, but Chloride levels were getting close. We cannot,
however, conclusively state that heavy metals are not an issue, because we only
have data for one time period of the year. One thing that the villagers worried
about was the possibility that the pesticides that the Mennonites (who own the
farms across the river) use on their crops could be getting caught in the wind
and carried across the river into the villagers’ water. We were not there
during a crop dusting, so we do not have any data to either support or negate
The survey results
are extremely helpful for qualitative analysis. We learned that fever is the
biggest health concern in their community, followed by malaria, mosquitoes,
hepatitis, and diabetes. The diabetes results shocked us. Diabetes is usually
associated with America, where we eat gluttonously, with little regard for
where our next meal will come from. However, the food that the villagers can
afford is heavily processed and high in sugars and starches, which, as we know,
are huge contributors to developing diabetes.
We discovered that many of their latrines were built several years ago
and are beginning to fill. When the latrine fills, the villagers simple dig a
new hole. With the excessive flooding during the rainy season, these crude
latrines flood. Another large problem in the community is the amount of
standing water. It is everywhere. One of the poorest homes we visited was
literally sinking in a puddle. This standing water becomes a breeding ground
for mosquitoes which only lends to the malaria problem.
We partnered with
PeaceWork for this portion of the project, and got the privilege to work with
the amazing Colby Lowery. She was a God-send. In the evenings when we would
come back from the village, she would teach us about project management,
leadership roles, and international development. She gave us a lot of great
information on how to develop AEA as a whole. She also had a connection to
Carol Babb, the Deputy Chief Education Officer in the Belizean Ministry of
Education, and set us up a meeting with her. Mrs. Babb had gone out to the
village and seen the conditions for herself, and we told her about our plans
for the village. Mrs. Babb was so impressed with us that she referred us to
Nina Hernandez, the coordinator for the Peace Corps there in Belize. With Mrs.
Hernandez, we discussed the possibility of positioning a Peace Corps Volunteer
in More Tomorrow. If that wasn't possible, then maybe a PCV that works in a
nearby village would be able to come to More Tomorrow a couple times a week.
They would serve as a great liaison between the people there and us. It was
truly an exciting part of our trip.
We learned a lot
from this trip. We went down there with the mission of fulfilling our CGIU
commitment and talking to the villagers about how our water tower will affect
their lives. But it turned into so much more than that. Arkansas Engineers
Abroad wants to continue to work in More Tomorrow. We want to break the “high
school mission trip” mold. Frequently, groups go into countries like Belize,
build a house or a few latrines and leave feeling good about themselves. But we
have learned that these kind of Band-Aid solutions are not what the people
need, and they frequently fail. More Tomorrow needs more than just a water
tower. We left Belize with three new missions. 1- Give the villagers the
technical skills to build a proper latrine, and maybe experiment with composting
latrine technology. 2- Enable the villagers the dig their own drainage ditches
to remove their homes from the water. 3- Educate the villagers about modern
sanitation procedures and implement this program in the schools and communities
across Belize. We want to bring More Tomorrow up from where they are now to
full sustainability, and that won’t happen with just a water tower.
established some great relationships with the people in the village. We played
with kids, sat on porches with old women, and walked around the village with
working men. We are connected to this village. We cannot and will not leave
now. They are counting on us to finish what we have started, and we promise to
work tirelessly for them.
I know, this was a
long post. Hopefully the next few will be more concise! There was just so much
that happened while we were there, it was difficult to even get it down to
these three pages. I could probably write 15. More to come soon! And some pictures :)
AEA had a great semester, and an even better start to the summer. We want to continue thanking those who support us.
AEA gained admittance to CGI U 2013. Angela Oxford (above) gave AEA $2860.00 as an award after getting invited to attend the CGI U meeting this Spring. With this donation from the university, a majority of the costs toward building the water tower foundation were accounted for.
Here is a photo of the AEA members who were representatives at the CGI U 2013 meeting:
From this experience, AEA led a strong semester. As soon as it as over, though, several of its members were off to Belize to impliment a new water tower foundation. (Because of AEA's focus on safety, a new foundation will be used, replacing the old one, so that the water tower will be able to withstand hurricane-force winds.)
As one can see, during preparation for the new foundation, AEA needed some heavy machinery:
The foundation's hole was dug, and the rebar prepared:
After putting up the plywood and rebar, the cement truck showed up. The hole was quickly filled, and our job was done.
Hey guys! AEA is starting the semester with a new opportunity: The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) For this project, we will be leading 2 projects, one local project, and another one abroad. The project abroad will be the Belize project lead by Cody Labarber. The local project is led by Kimberly Cribbs, and consists of a partnership with Tri Cycle Farm to work on a rainwater-catchment system. The CGI conference will be held April 5-7th in St. Louis, and we will send 8 members to represent AEA. We are currently in the process of finishing the proposal for the CGI, and will keep in touch with more detail in the near future.