Rainwater Harvesting at Holy Cross

The new rainwater tank at Holy Cross Anglican School

For all those who spoke with Francis and Vernon, founders of Holy Cross Anglican School, you will know that they have long wanted to collect the abundant rainwater that San Mateo receives and use it in place of the much more expensive town water supply we currently use. Yet for a vision that sounds so simple, this one remained elusive... until now.

The full team - St Helena's, All Saints, Grace Church, Water Missions, Holy Cross.
Thanks to a huge collaborative effort, Holy Cross is delighted to be a recipient of a rainwater storage and purification system from the Belize Chapter of Water Missions International. This system collects water from the roof our our new toilet block, feeds it into a 10,000L (2,640 Gallon) storage tank, then an attached system purifies the water, removing any bacteria and contamination so the water is safe for drinking. This purified water is stored in a smaller tank then pumped to the kitchens as needed for drinking and cleaning. The system is amazing - completely self contained and runs by gravity and solar operated pumps so there is no ongoing cost to the school. We hope that this system can supply the total water need of the school for at least 6 months a year, hopefully more. WOW!!!

But the gift of water was only part of the gift Water Missions International gave the school and the community. Each day the team was here, they ran activities in San Mateo, either announcing the project, doing health and hygiene classes with the children, doing classes with the women and also celebrating the installation of the system. Throughout these activities they shared a simple yet powerful gospel message - just as water is life, Jesus is the living water that gives us life. Just as water needs to be filtered to removed contamination, so too Jesus died on the cross to remove the contamination of sin from our lives. They prayed with the community, shared stories, encouraged and celebrated.
Health and hygiene training in the school cafeteria

One of the things that made this project special was the  way many groups came together to make the project possible. The project was made possible by Grace Church, Yorktown, Virginia who had visited the school a year ago with a team and were moved the the water situation in San Mateo and the school. They began exploring options and discovered Water Missions Belize, who were able to provide the expert staff and design for this project. Also partnering with the project was St Helena’s, Beaufort,  South Carolina who also had a partner relationship with All Saints in Belize City. It may sound confusing but bringing this diverse group together was incredible, especially seeing the Belizean youth partnering with the American youth and realizing they were capable of making change in their own country. 
Community celebration - fun songs with the local children

A huge thank you to all who made this possible for Holy Cross School. We are truly thankful and humbled by your generosity.

Volunteers Making a Difference

Once again Holy Cross were blessed by the presence of teams of volunteers over the summer. Some were new teams, here for the first time, while others were those who had partnered with us for many years. It was a wonderful time as old friendships were renewed, new friendships made and people from all over the USA came together with a common purpose of helping the children of Belize.

A central part of the vision of Holy Cross is to form long term partnerships with churches and schools, whereby volunteers can experience the joy that comes with giving back to a community, witness a little of the poverty that the majority of the world's children live in, then become motivated to support long term, sustainable change.

Teams this summer included:
GINGER & TONY ROGERS, two incredible individuals who have worked with us for several summers. Ginger once again did a wonderful job of setting up and running a summer school for our std 5 children (7th grade), helping with reading difficulties and getting them ready for their final year of primary schooling.  Tony is an incredible handyman who can do anything asked of him and his presence was a wonderful support for our team this year.

EASTERN SHORE CHAPEL, long time supporters of the school who regularly send a group of skilled carpenters as well as well rounded team members of all ages. This year they replaced railings, built a gate and completed fencing for our playground, helped add fill to our playground and gave superb assistance to our summer school. Go Team!
New railing gets a coat of paint

CHURCH OF ST PETER & PAUL, a first time team to Holy Cross but very experienced yet youthful missioners. They did an incredible job of painting classrooms, and in just 5 days painted 6 classrooms, one hall and one mural, all in our infant school. THANK YOU - the teachers are going to be so happy to see their classrooms looking almost brand new. 
The inspiring mural for our K-2nd graders

ST THOMAS EPISCOPAL CHURCH AND SCHOOL also blessed us with a group of youthful yet very capable missioners, who delighted the children of San Mateo by running a fun and energetic Vacation Bible School. The children loved hearing about Jesus, while also doing simple crafts and playing fun games. The group also helped by painting classrooms and assisting in the summer school. What a blessing!
Local children loving VBS
Local boy loving the music and attention

A group of regular vacationers to San Pedro from Winterset Community Church were also first time volunteers at the school. The leaders of the group had been vacationing here for years and came in for a visit earlier in the year. When they heard we needed skilled volunteers they were excited by the opportunity to give a little back to Belize. They came back with a group of friends, spent their mornings working hard building gates, shelves, painting, assisting with summer school and vacation bible school. And, they had so much fun doing it they can't wait to come back!

Mary Ellen, a sewing teacher from Connecticut spent a week helping in our sewing center, providing great support for our wonderful sewing ladies. She was able to offer some great tips and hints for making the uniforms, maintaining the machines and really encouraged our sewing ladies. She was very impressed at what our group had been able to achieve as large self taught learners in such a short time. Thank you!

A group of Park Scholars from North Carolina State University returned for their second year. With great energy and enthusiasm they painted more classrooms (did I mention we have a lot of classrooms?). They also began a project they hope to continue for many years to come - photographing every home in San Mateo to provide a record of change over time.  PLEASE - if you have a good collection of photos of San Mateo from previous years, email me at volunteerbelize@gmail.com and I can put you in touch with these volunteers.

A diverse group from Grace Church, Virginia; St Helena's, South Carolina; All Saints, Belize City; and Water Missions international built us a fantastic rainwater harvesting system. This is such a good story I've told in in a separate entry. 

Now that's a large tank!
The Canterbury Society of William and Mary in Virginia, who are wonderful supporters of the school have begun an informal tradition (if there is such a thing) of sending individual students for an extended period of time over the summer. God is good and often who ever they send has just the right skills. This summer, Jacob has been a huge blessing to the school working on computers, assisting with teams and lending his creative design skills to a couple of very interesting projects that I hope to unveil soon (no peeking... it's a surprise!)

Finally, and certainly not least, St Matthew's  School and Transfiguration Church  will come as part of their annual trip to San Pedro where they will teach the local children how to swim (an important skill on a tropical island), as well as helping our school with the final touches of much needed paint. 

Wow - what a huge effort on the part of so many.  But you have all been an important part of keeping our 'little' school in San Mateo open to the children of Sam Pedro. Thank you all for your help. We know you have all learned so much just by being here an experiencing Belize and our prayer is that this experience will encourage you to greater things in your Christian journey. As a wise person once told me "a mind once expanded can never contract".

If you are interested in sending a volunteer team over the coming year - such a spring break or summer or even mid year, please contact us at volunteerbelize@gmail.com to find out more information. There is always something for you to do.

Safe Water in San Mateo

Holy Cross Anglican School, and the Rotary Clubs of San Ignacio and Belize City and are very excited to report an exciting first step for safe drinking water in San Mateo! This is a huge step forward for the local residents, many of whom have running water that is at risk of contamination from the dirty groundwater that surrounds the water pipes entering the community.

Ann Kuffner leading training with first members of the community to receiving the Rotary Filters
The filters chosen are the incredible Sawyer Water Filters - these act a little like human kidneys, filtering all bacteria and solids from the water and making it safe to drink. They cost around $50 each, but last for 8 - 10 years!  They are simple to teach people to use and require just simple maintenance - no wonder Sheree Fukai from the Rotary Club in San Ignacio was excited when she found out about these! Sheree wrote a grant that saw 750 of these filters distributed to schools around the country - including Holy Cross - while the Rotary Club of Belize City are working to distribute filters directly into communities affected by poor drinking water.

So far 7 units have been given to the San Mateo community, with the hope of more to follow.

Like many good achievements, this has come as a result of many, many individuals working together for the common good.These include:

  • The Rotary Clubs of San Ignacio and Belize, for all their hard work securing these filters for the families and children of Belize
  • Kim Shackelford from the San Mateo Community Empowerment Project, for connecting us to the community. 
  • Lisa Tillett, from the Ministry of Health, for all your input and experience and wonderful co-operation. 
  • Ann Kuffner, for all your work coordinating between the different groups, leading training and being the person on the ground doing all this hard work.
  • Heather Zwicker, from Belize Community Conservation, for introducing the school to Ann, so that we could be a small part of this wonderful project
  • The many other;s whose names I don't know but your work was important in seeing this happen. 
Following this first training, we hope in time to receive more of the filters from the Rotary Club of Belize and Ann will continue training and distribution. A huge effort, but well worth doing. Fresh, affordable water in the community has been a huge need for a long time and this looks like a wonderful solution until a permanent piped water solution can be found. Well keep you all updated of progress.

A huge thank you for everyone involved in this project. Your dedication to the families of San Mateo is truly appreciated.

Local residents learn how to use the filters properly

The proud owner of a new filtration system.

First Holy Cross Preschool Graduation

The pride in the air was almost palpable as staff, parents, friends, brothers and sisters watched the young graduates assemble. And they looked beautiful too - the girls in gorgeious dresses and boys in black pants and bow tie, all covered in a magnificent graduation gown and cap.
The ceremony, planned by the infant school staff, was wonderful. The children were well prepared and looked so confient - hard to belive they were the same children who joined us a year ago. They sang a song about how much they looked forward to going to primary school and accepted their diplomas proudly. After the ceremony, parents and children enjoyed a celebratory meal.

Pictures say so much more than words, so look forward to plenty more below.

But first I want to thank all those who have made this first year of preschool possible - the Anglican Diocese, the teachers, the parents and all the volunteers who donated their time, toys, books and money to make this happen. We belive that this preschool will have a huge impact on the community and the academic future of these children. PLEASE help us to keep the preschool thriving by supporting Holy Cross Anglican school - donate by sending a check to PO Box 59, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize on online/check via the 501c3 registered Holy Cross Education Foundation. Contact volunteerbelize@gmail.com to find out about donating supplies or volunteering.

Getting ready to march to the stage

Singing a song

Receiving certificates from Vice Principal Mrs Tasher

Just too cute

Softball Success

You wouldn't have thought it as our softball team headed for the district playoffs, but this was the first year that many of them had played softball. But here they were, two confident teams with wins already under their belt.

Coach Mr Brandon Bood, Manager Mr Carlos
Coba with the Holy Cross Boy's Softball Team

This is the first year Holy Cross has had a softball team and we owe our successful start to St Thomas Episcopal Church in Massachusetts, who generously donated us several large bags of uniforms, bats, balls and catchers gear last summer when they came as a volunteer team to the school. Also this year one of our new teachers - Mr Brandon Bood - is a very experienced softball coach and had previously coached a team who won the national finals.

So for many reasons we were very confident. Mr Bood and our sports teacher Mr Carlos Coba together did a great job of coaching the teams. It wasn't long before the local competitions started.

Both our teams did well.

Our girl's team played San Pedro Roman Catholic School, winning the match.

Girls team, ready for that fast ball

The boys had two teams to complete against. First up was Isla Bonita, winning 14-6. Next they faced San Pedro Roman Catholic School, winning 8-4.

Boy's team, waiting their turn

As often is the case, beating one obstacle just brings the next. Our team was eligible to play at the district level, facing all the other schools from the various areas in the Belize district. But if, and only if, we could raise $300 US in 5 days. Well, trusting in miracles and the generosity of the many who support us, I put out the appeal. And God had gone before us. I had asked St Thomas church, who had donated the equipment, and not only did they get my email which was sent to and address they almost never check anymore, but the Senior Youth Group at the church had already arranged a fundraiser for that weekend and were happy to support the team as part of it - WOW!

Our teams were thrilled to head off to the district level playoffs. For some, this was the first time they'd been of the island. For many, it was the first time they'd even seen a real softball field. But they didn't let the big city overwhelm them.

The boys started strong- winning against St Martin De Porres R.C. School 4-2.  The next game was tougher as they faced the previous district champions from Crooked Tree Government School. They started well and were leading 4-1 until a couple of simple mistakes lost our team the lead and their confidence. The game finished in a loss, but everyone agreed out team had done well.

The boys team took home two trophies - 2nd place in the Belize District Rural, and 2nd place in the Belize District.

The Girls had a tougher time, playing Buttonwood Bay Nazarene School, loosing 5-0 but still picking up the 2nd place trophy for the Belize District Rural Schools. Well done!

We'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who made this day possible - coaches, teachers, parents, volunteers, donors and staff. We now hold our heads up high thanks to your hard work.

We'd also like to ask for future support for our teams - especially for donations to help our teams go to the mainland for games.  Either send us a check, or email volunteerbelize@gmail.com indicating you're available to ask when sporting needs come up. We also need donations of trophies to host inter-school tournaments at our school, as well as sporting equipment - especially shoes.

Holy Cross Girl's Softball Team

Holy Cross Boys Softball Team

2012 Scholarship Drive

8th grade students studying hard
Welcome to our 2012 High School Scholarship Appeal. 

A child without education is destined for a lifetime of uncertain employment, often working long days for minimum or less than minimum wage. Donating towards a high school scholarship gives kids a shot at a much brighter future. And that future is not just for them - sometimes a single family member with a decent job is what it takes to pull that whole family out of the poverty trap.

Right now we're looking for individuals, groups, clubs and churches to get together, raise funds and donate a full or partial scholarship for one or more of our thirty-five 8th graders (Standard VI) who will graduate in June.

Scholarships include tuition, school fees, 2 uniforms, books and exam fees. At the time of printing, the full cost of a scholarship (in $US) is:
  •  Form 1 (First year high school) $750
  •  Form 2: $850
  •  Form 3: $1,000
  •   Form 4: $1,200
This can either be paid in full by August, 2012 or in installments due in August, November and March, 2013.

Preparing for exams
As a scholarship donor, you will receive a photo of the scholarship recipient, copies of school report cards and emails from the student. You are also encouraged to write to them regularly.

As a scholarship recipient, the students will be expected to maintain good attendance, correspond at least once a term and 1st Form students must attend ongoing computer classes in the Holy Cross Computer Lab. 

If providing a full scholarship seems daunting, then please do consider offering a partial scholarship.  We can then pair you with another donor offering a partial scholarship and you can sponsor a high school student together.

For all of those already offering a scholarship I’d like to thank you very much for making this chance possible for our graduating students. Committing to education is not a quick or easy thing to do, but it is one of the things that can truly change a life.  Please do email Linda Carter at lindabelize@gmail.com to confirm whether you can continue your scholarship for the coming year.

For those considering offering a scholarship I’d like to challenge you to do so. It really will change a life. Please do email Linda Carter at lindabelize@gmail.com to say you’re interested in providing a scholarship and receive information on the children looking for sponsors.

And to everyone, thank you all for your ongoing support of our school here in Belize.  Without you we wouldn’t even be in a position to be offering this life changing opportunity.

Thank you to all who made our school possible and our futures bright

Preschool Antics

Nurse Jamilyn - what a cutie!
The Holy Cross preschool has gotten off to a wonderful start, with 15 bright-eyed 4 year olds attending every morning, while a few less three year olds come every afternoon. Although I could happily spend all my time in the preschool and blogging cute stories, I'll keep it short.

Our preschool children are learning many of the same things as their counterparts from around the world - simple numbers, letters, learning through play, how to get along with others and the rules of being in a classroom.

In Belize, few children attend preschool. Often this is because the local preschools are very expensive - one local preschool is charging $25 Belize ($12.50 US) a week per child at preschool - a huge burden when you consider the average wage is $40 BZ per day and families commonly have 5 children.  Also, particularly at our school where we focus on providing education for the most disadvantaged children, few have had parents who have had the skill, resources or time to teach their children any of the basic skills and knowledge many western schools take for granted.

Mrs Jamira, the preschool teacher, who previously taught our Infant 1 class (equivalent to K in the US system), had a lot to say about the advantages our preschool is giving our children.  In previous years she says it's been common to have many children who arrive at school very unprepared. Many don't have the simple skills you might expect - how to hold a pencil, count to 5, spell their name or know their age, write any letters or even know the names of shapes. With 1 teacher to 25 or more children, it's really tough to fill these gaps in learning while also keeping up with the curriculum. But now, with our preschool, we have a whole class of children who are already learning these skills, who can be role models and helpers to their peers.

Now for the cute pictures!  March was child stimulation month and all the preschools had a chance to break out and learn beyond the classroom. Our kids had a ball. Here's a few highlights:
Culture Day, where all the children came dressed as one of the cultures found in Belize.
Community day: All the kids came dressed as a community worker, then spent the day meeting real community workers and learning about their jobs.

Three legged races in the park
Family Craft day was a hit

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