I asked Chris Lloyd if he would like to share his experience in volunteering for the school by writing a short piece that I could post in the Holy Cross Blog. Included in the email he sent is his personal blog with more about his 3 months volunteering at Holy Cross.
Hey folks!! Many of you requested an email about my experiences upon my return from Belize, so here goes! I apologize this has taken me so long to send!!
First off, let me begin by saying that Hurricane Dean passed over Belize with very little damage and no loss of life. San Pedro, Holy Cross, and San Mateo all fared better than one would expect given the fact that they were directly in the path of what became a category 5 hurricane. A lot of prayers were answered, and I am very very thankful for the outcome.
On Wednesday, August 15th I took an early morning flight back to the US from what had become my home-away-from-home for the previous three months in Belize, Central America. It was an absolutely incredible experience, and one that I will not soon forget. I spent most of my time at Holy Cross Anglican School in San Pedro, which is on an Island just off the coast of Belize City.
The warm and welcoming environment of San Pedro was unbelievable. Belize is a nation of such rich diversity that anyone who spends any amount of time there is bound to feel welcome in a familiar, yet distinct cultural environment. San Pedro itself consists of "Gringo", Garifuna, Spanish, and Creole cultures all living in relative harmony. Yet Belize, and San Pedro in particular, also consists of another kind of diversity that we in the US don't often see. Walking down the beach in San Pedro Town, you are surrounded by quaint hotels, locals selling their wares to passing tourists, gift shops, ice cream stores, restuarants serving both local and international cuisine, and honeymooners swooning over eachother along the sandy shores.
Yet a short fifteen minute walk past all of this brings you to a vastly different world. San Mateo, the little village where the school is located, has no sewage systems, very little running water (most days none at all), and no sanitation system of any kind. I spent a lot of time walking through this area and each time was more humbling than the next. Seeing the conditions that many of Holy Cross's children come from makes me want to do something more than simply being there. Holy Cross Anglican School is providing such a needed service (part of the school is a medical clinic, there is a nurse on staff full time, and each child recieves two nutritious meals a day, for just a few dollars a year) that I was proud and honored to be a part of its efforts.
To those of you who are recieving this email that work at or with the school, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you. You gave me an opportunity to see firsthand how people with vision and determination can change their little parts of the world for the better. I miss you all already.
To everyone else, thank you for your kind support, financially, spiritually or otherwise, as I undertook this venture the last three months.
I will be posting photos on my blog as soon as they are developed. The link to it is as follows: http://chrisinbelize.livejournal.com/
I apologize for the long email, but there was much to say. I hope that this email finds you all well. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I continue my work towards a Masters in Educational Ministries at Gordon-Conwell.
Love and Blessings,
I went to the school today to take pictures after hurricane Dean. I decided to photograph San Mateo first which is the area beside the school where many of the students live.
One one hand I was glad that I knew ahead of time the houses there were ok, on the other hand it made me sad to see the high water levels and imagine what it was like during the storm.
As I approached the bridge to make the loop around the area, I could not bring myself to cross it. That was a first for me, some of you reading this will know what that particular experience is like and after the storm the boards at the end seemed a bit more precarious than usual, although the 2 girls in my picture below had no second thoughts about it.
There has been much controversy over this neighbourhood. I feel it is important for people to see pictures so that we can generate awareness and be able to help the people living in San Mateo have a better neighbourhood. Holy Cross school is helping their kids get a good education and proper nutrition, and would like to see all the families in that area doing well.
The school survived Hurricane Dean, Miss Linda showed me a picture of the school with a big lake in front of it, thankfully the water has gone down. The classrooms are ok and there was no leaks or water damage. Some landfill was lost and 1/2 of a septic system that was to be installed in the Office.
The Hurricane did set everything back a week for construction and now it a bit of a race to get everything finished for Sept 11th the first day of school. Holy Cross is looking for any volunteers that would like to varnish desks and help prepare classrooms for the new school year.
For the next 3 days Miss Dianne from Quick Messenger Service is doing a communications work shop for the teachers at the school.
This School year is going to be busier and better than ever.
Happy boy riding his bike
Girls crossing the bridge
Yards are very wet
No basket ball for a while - we hope to get a playgroud done at the school
A boy and his bike
San Mateo Sidewalk
San Mateo suffered a lot of water after Hurricane Dean
Too much water
Destiny still has an uphill climb health wise
Yards are not supposed to be wetlands
Houses are still standing
Dock and boat
Too much water
This is supposed to be the official entry way from San Mateo to the school
This sink hole needs to be filled to help improve living conditions in San Mateo
Sinkhole is estimated 20 ft deep
San Mateo sidewalk
Road through San Mateo
Boarded up for Hurricane Dean
These folks need help
yards are too wet
Boats by the bridge
New addition to the cafeteria - screened in porch to handle additional students for lunch
Registration time with Miss Linda
Inside new addition to cafateria
Hallway to new classrooms
Inside new classes
Sept 11 is coming fast Holy Cross needs volunteers to help get things ready
The school is growing so fast
Still boarded up
The school is ok lots of water is word from Sterling.
Not had time for pics up in that area yet.
Jan from Portofino posted this.. Just listened to the radio announcement of NEMO, and there is no evacuation order at this moment. The next radio announcement will be tomorrow (Monday) morning at 8am.
For more info go to http://tacogirlblog.blogspot.com/
http://acerfriends.blogspot.com/ list of people
Reminder to all keep your radios turned to reef radio via internet http://reefradiofm.tripod.com/
Just got word from Francis this am she is due back Tuesday but as the comming storm we are not sure what will happen.
The school is being boarded up. I am still waiting to hear more if they need help moving books.
No call from school so they are likely handeling it ok (hopefully)
Sterling Vorus just emailed and said first aid stations will be maintained at Island Ferry dock, the Palapa Bar /Beach n kitchen area. He is on the school advisory board and First responders / Island Ferry.
Just got word from Linda Carter Via the ambergris message board and the school is boarded up.
For more detailed reports of the storm and what is happening around San Pedro Town right now go to http://tacogirlblog.blogspot.com/
Say your prayers for the school and San Mateo please, It they manage to stay safe we will be ok.
Hi Folks we need your prayers now more than ever as we prepare for huricane Dean.
Many of the kids who go to Holy Cross live in places that just would not withstand a hurricane, those you you who have walked through San Mateo know what I mean. As of yet I am unsure of the status if the school will be opened for families.
We are all trying to do what we need to as best we can right now ith what we have.
I just for an email from Sterling Vorus a fellow advisory board member saying we may need help moving books tomorrow.
weather channel saying Yucatan on Tuesday at 2 am
More updates here...
Ministry of Education came to review Our efforts at Holy Cross, the committee was impressed with what they saw.
Plans for the upcoming 2007-08 school year call for Holy Cross to become a full primary school offering classes from Infant I through Standard VI (K through 7). Our projected enrollment will more than likely double to approximately 400 students…over twice as many uniforms, textbooks, meals, school supplies, teachers, desks, socks, shoes, book bags
Construction of new classroom pod is well underway. This building will house the Infant Division Infant I, Infant II and Standard I (K through 2nd) and will be 'home' to 199 little ones - wow!
400 students are registered so far and we will have 13 teachers 1 Principal 1 vice principal 2 Special Ed teachers
We are working on a plan for teachers and staff first aid training, fire safety plan and hurricane evacuation
A professional / career day is in the works to teach children about different professions as well as a music and art appreciation days.
The school dental clinic is just about finished. Many, many thanks to Bud and Geri Rotter for their generous donation which purchased the necessary tools and equipment; Dr. Mark and Joan Johnson for spearheading and coordinating the entire effort; dentist Louie Lam and Dave Buelow for setting everything up and their wives Roxanne and Shirley for cleaning the office space. A special thank you also goes to Francis' wonderful husband, Vernon for calmly negotiating with Belizean Customs, dozens of people in Belize City and San Pedro for days actually weeks to get the equipment into the country - not an easy task.
Seminary student and volunteer Chris Lloyd has been at the School since May and will be here until mid-August. Chris has been an enormous help to staff, students and volunteer groups and has done every job thats needed doing - and believe me, there are LOTS of jobs that need doing at Holy Cross! His quiet presence and humility have been greatly appreciated.
Discussions are underway with Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia regarding their setting up and funding a teacher training program and a marine biology study/training facility adjacent to Holy Cross. This would be a fabulous resource for the entire nation of Belize.
For the teachers of Holy Cross it is back to school for the month of August as they have teacher training. The teachers are taking classes at the school and also in Belize city to upgrade their skills. Among the things they are learning are classroom management and advanced skills for Special Ed.
We now have 431 students enrolled for the new school year.
In September Holy Cross will be a full primary school offering classes for each grade level from kindergarten Infant I through seventh Standard VI in addition to our Special Education Unit. A quantum leap in just one year! Thanks be to God and you, many of the Island's poorest children will have the opportunity to receive an excellent basic education at the lowest (or in many instances no) cost.
New classroom building
New classroom pod well on the way to being done
School uniforms for September
Twenty nine school days left as we count down to the last day of school, June 29, 2007. Let the party planning begin. Unbelievable that the school year is almost over.
170 students have been learning to read, write, add and subtract, among other things like learning the Lord’s Prayer, washing hands before each meal and saying please and thank you , especially on teacher appreciation day.
A School Nurse has been hired and is being paid out of School funds at $175US per week. Her responsibilities are endless and she is making an invaluable contribution to the health and well being of the students. Welcome, Miss Glenda.
Miss Diane of Quick Messenger Service is teaching Sign Language to the Staff (every Monday afternoon for 45 minutes) and to both Standard I classes on Wednesday mornings. We have two deaf students (one in each Standard I class) and many of our special needs students are non-verbal. So, we’re all learning to communicate in Sign!! It brought tears to my eyes as a group of children recently signed Happy Birthday to a little girl in their class. Miss Diane is also being paid out of School funds at $50US per week.
Work has begun on the School Office/Nurse’s Office/Infirmary and the future dental clinic and storage room. We hope to have the Office/Infirmary finished by the end of next week.
Dr. Mark Johnson and his wife, Joan have offered to spearhead the setting up of a small dental clinic at the School. This will ensure that our students receive dental care several times a year and that other children in the community can be cared for, free of charge. Thank you, Mark and Joan for your generous offer.
A Friends of Holy Cross group came together from the local community and organized a Cinco de Mayo Fund raising Extravaganza at Wet Willy's bar and cantina. The event was a huge success with people flying in from out of town enjoy the party. Almost $10,000US was raised to purchase desperately needed land fill and a great time was had by children and adults. Big shout out to all who helped make this event a big success. To see pictures of this event please go to link s listed below.
Construction is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks on a five classroom pod which will house the Infant I and Infant II classes next fall. As soon as that is completed, we start on the remaining three classrooms we will need prior to the opening of school in September 2007 - say LOTS of prayers!
The Standard I classes each took a field trip to the Butterfly Farm http://www.butterflyjungle.bz/ about two miles north of the School. For many it was their first time in a boat and for all it was their first experience up close and personal with butterflies. The field trip was held after each class had completed a science unit on the life cycle of the butterfly. Many thanks to Captain Tom and Miss Valley, owners of the Butterfly Farm, for providing free entrance and to Fred Somes for the use of his boat.
The Education Board from the Anglican Diocese of Belize held its monthly meeting on April 18th at Holy Cross. It was a pleasure to welcome Bishop Philip Wright, Mrs. Carol Babb, General Manager of Anglican Schools and the other members of the committee. They were all amazed at how far Holy Cross has come in such a short period of time. We got a gold star of aproval and a pat on the back.
A part time bookkeeper and School Office Manager has been hired. Once again, her salary has to be paid out of School funds ($150US per week) as Government does not provide salaries for staff assistance - unbelievable! Anyway, we are all delighted to welcome Miss Linda
Students in Standard I were taken to the local library for a tour and to get a library card. Most of our students didn’t even know there was such a thing as a town library and would have never been able to afford the $1.50US fee for the library card. Your donations were at work again.
Plans for the upcoming 2007-08 school year call for Holy Cross to become a full primary school offering classes from Infant I through Standard VI (K through 7). Our projected enrollment will more than likely double to approximately 400 students…over twice as many uniforms, textbooks, meals, school supplies, teachers, desks, socks, shoes, book bags. Please help - when ever and how ever you can.
Checks may be made payable to: Holy Cross Anglican School And sent to:
Holy Cross Anglican School
San Pedro Town
The staff and students of Holy Cross thank you for your support and invite you to visit soon.
Field trip to Belize Zoo was greatly enjoyed.
Class Pictures were taken to commemorate the first year of students.
We had a great end of school party with local musicians and handmade instruments for the kids. Sounds of noisemakers, drums, a didgeridoo, children's laughter and shreeks of joy filled the air.
The new School Office/Infirmary/Dental Clinic is close to be completed. Playground comes next.
Cinco De Mayo fund raiser for the school
Di Del San Pedro
End of School Party
Field trip to the zoo
End of school Concert
Caught a butterfly
Great compliment to what the kids learned in class
Zac and John
The school land was donated by the Belize government, unfortunately it was wetlands and so to build a school there it needed to be filled bit by bit.
Vernon says we need 60,000 cubic yards of fill for the property. There was an engineer who was here several weeks ago who took out a little boat and did water depths all over the property. Somehow that's the figure he came up with.
Currently we're paying $140 for 7 cubic yards (one truck load) or 8,571 loads costing $1,225,149BZ That's to fill the entire 8.6 acres unbelizable! We're talking with some folks who have a dredge that could do the fill for half the price of dump trucks - that's only $612,574.00
The Education Board from the Anglican Diocese of Belize held its monthly meeting on April 18th at Holy Cross. It was our pleasure to welcome Bishop Philip Wright, Mrs. Carol Babb, General Manager of Anglican Schools and the other members of the committee. They were all amazed at how far Holy Cross has come in such a short period of time. Holy Cross got a gold star and a good pat on the back for all our hard work.
To see pictures please go to tacogirl blog links below
People making a donation visiting Holy Cross
Clean up day 2http://tacogirlblog.blogspot.com/2007/04/clean-up-day-2-today.html
153 children are now enrolled at Holy Cross many for the first time ever. 15 special needs children are receiving care and guidance in our Special Education Unit that would otherwise be at home due to their disability.
Three additional buildings are under construction, a lunchroom / chapel / multipurpose building, the school kitchen and caretakers home and an additional Standard I classroom. Seven more classrooms and a school office/health clinic will be built, prior to the opening of school in September 2007.
As it stands, we project a student enrollment of 350 by then. We will offer three Infant I kindergarten classes, two Infant II first grade, two Standard I second grade, and one class each for Standard II, III, IV, V, and VI. Our goal is to provide an education to all children unable to attend other schools due to lack of space or financial constraints.
Needless to say, none of this would have been or will be possible without the generosity of folks like you. Every nail, every desk, every pencil, every piece of food - literally everything at Holy Cross - has been donated or bought with contributions from our caring friends. Thank you so very much for helping grow the school.
A special thank you goes to all those who responded to the Vitamin Drive. Ms. Francis thrilled to say we have at least a two year supply of vitamins on hand - that’s a LOT of vitamins. She is removing vitamins from the Holy Cross Wish List until further notice.
February - 1 Electricity arrived at Holy Cross yesterday It only took 7 months to get connected but that's pretty fast in Belize
February 5th - The first volunteer mission team arrived at Holy Cross. Under the capable leadership of John Willard, an energetic group of folks from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, North Carolina contributed their time, talents and treasure to students, staff and the local community. By Friday the 9th they had completed our sixth classroom, and watched (with tears in their eyes) as students carried their desks over the brand new threshold. Our huge Standard I class was finally able to divide into two more manageable and teachable groups, teachers Miss Laura and Miss Diane were overjoyed.
February 12th - the second volunteer mission team arrived, once again from St. Luke’s in Durham - same leader but a totally different group of folks. They began work on the school Chapel/cafeteria and made great progress. They, like the group before, spent hours helping in the classrooms, assisting with breakfast, snack and lunch and washing tons of dishes.
February - 14 Valentine’s Day party was a big hit with the kids complete with an aerial show by Boogie in Belize skydivers, donated Valentine cards, fancy pencils, candy and homemade scones for each student. We also had sack races and an inflatable trampoline fun house. For many of out students it was a first ever Valentine’s celebration. Big shout out to all who had a hand in making it happen. Thanks to all the skydivers for bringing down supplies for the school.
February - 16th Students from Holy Cross joined the ‘March Against Child Abuse’. The day focused on helping children understand what abuse is and what to do if they are being abused. The most exciting part for the children was a parade through downtown San Pedro. They carried handmade signs, chanted ‘no more abuse’ and brought their message to the adults of the community.
February 21st - Ash Wednesday services were held in our almost completed School Chapel. Many thanks to Fr. Lloyd Neal from the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Belize City for leading our students and staff in worship as we observed the beginning of the Lenten Season.
February 25th - Family Sunday Service was held in our ‘even more completed since Wednesday thanks to the efforts of our volunteer team from Christ Church, Easton Maryland,‘ School Chapel. Fr. Neal once again generously shared his time and talents.
February 26th - Teacher Miss Elsy joined the staff at Holy Cross. Miss Elsy is assisting in the Special Education classroom and with Infant II.
Feb 27 - Miss Rosita Miguel, from Belize City spent the day at Holy Cross and provided ‘hands on’ training for our teachers. Only one of our teacher has post secondary school training specifically in education so we need lots of guidance!
February 28th - Pizza day at Holy Cross courtesy Pedro’s and Boogie in Belize skydivers. Coordinator Richard Grimm and his family handed out mouth-watering slices of pizza to students and staff. In addition, the skydivers held a poker tournament at Pedro’s and raised $1000, which was donated in school supplies.
February came to a close at Holy Cross Anglican School. As our teachers were busy with lesson plans, classroom projects and the task of educating and our students were about the important work of learning… friends and volunteers from San Pedro and the world beyond made many of our memorable moments possible. Thank you one and all.
Read more about the faces of the Future at the links below.
Sky divers were ambushed by kids when they landed
December 18, 2006
Update from Francis Wilson December 18, 2006
Can it possibly be Christmas?!? Seems like only yesterday we were frantically trying to complete three classrooms for the September 4th opening of school in San Pedro. Now 118 students have finished the first term of the 2006-07 Holy Cross Anglican School year and have happily embarked on Christmas vacation…wow…truly a miracle!
And, speaking of miracles (which we do often at Holy Cross!), I’d like to share just a few Belizean-style ones that your prayers and donations have helped bring about…….
* After days of drenching rains, the sun shone brightly on Wednesday, December 6th as Bishop Philip Wright ‘Blessed and Dedicated’ two new classrooms at Holy Cross!! The paint wasn’t dry on the walls but the entire community - parents, students, friends and local officials - joined in celebrating the first (and only!) Special Education Center on the Island and one of only seven Special Ed centers nationwide. Fourteen special needs children have joined the Holy Cross family and a new era in the education of the handicapped has begun…wow…truly a miracle!
The other classroom quickly became home to our second class of Infant I students. With 63 students in Infant I, little bodies were packed into the original 20’by 25’ classroom like sardines and effective teaching had become an impossibility. Now Miss Sharon, Miss Laura and their students have room to grow and learn and flourish in two separate classrooms…wow…truly a miracle!
* On Thursday the 7th, one of our students came to school with what appeared to be a terribly infected hand the result of a recent cat scratch. Off we went to the PolyClinic (don’t try this in the States!) where he was diagnosed and treated for a parasitic worm - ugh! A few pills and just a week later, his hand was as good as new…wow…truly a miracle!
* Later that day at our weekly staff meeting local resident, school volunteer and psychologist Marilyn Marx was leading our group in team building exercises. Of course we got off the topic and soon were discussing all the needs we have at the school. Marilyn suggested we consider a community-wide fundraiser …a 2007 calendar with pictures of our beautiful students might be just the right thing!
I must admit we looked at her like she was crazy but 8 days later off we went to the printer and the Holy Cross ‘Faces of the Future” 2007 calendar will make it into the local stores before the new year. Now that’s a miracle that ranks right up there with the parting of the Red Sea! Special thanks go to Marilyn, Cullen Walker, Richard Jacobs and Marie of Gecko Graphics who all generously donated hours of their time!
* Sunday the 10th - another day of pouring rain and prospects were dim for a good turn out for the first Holy Cross Christmas Pageant. Roads were a sea of mud and since most of our families walk everywhere, we were worried! But once again, God was at work. Bishop Wright arrived a little late (remember those roads!) as did most of our families but by 2:30 our borrowed Church was filled to overflowing. Shepherds and angles once again joined in the joy of that first Nativity, carols were sung, the Eucharist celebrated and the official Holy Cross School crosses were blessed and given to the children…wow…truly a miracle!
And those crosses are a miracle story in and of themselves! Vernon (my husband and a retired goldsmith) teaches jewelry design and manufacturing at the National Prison. Since the teachers wanted a special cross for the school, Vernon held a design competition in his class. All his students submitted drawings for a potential cross and the teachers at the school selected the winner. The three men who created the best designs were allowed out of prison for the day, under Vernon’s supervision, to attend our Christmas Pageant (don’t try this in the States either!). As they shared their stories of the transforming power of God’s love and the value of learning, the children were hanging on every word. Somehow, I think the entire day made Jesus smile!
* Wednesday evening December 13, I was privileged to hand out certificates of completion to twelve adults in our ‘English as a Second Language’ class. Teacher Laura’s eyes shown with pride as her students shared - in English! - what the class had meant to them. Your contributions enable us to offer this much needed class as well as the Saturday morning English class for our school children. Belize is an English speaking country and folks who don’t speak the language are discriminated against in all areas of life - especially in the employment sector. Learning English is the first and most critical step in the climb out of poverty and you are an important part of that process for our families at Holy Cross…wow…truly a miracle!
* And then our incredible Christmas Party and Celebration was held on Friday afternoon, December 15! Organized and coordinated by local residents, Laurie Ann and Paul, our children received Christmas stockings overflowing with goodies donated by local merchants, feasted on delicious cakes given by Casa Pan Dulce Bakery, received hand made school bags filled with school supplies sent by St. Philip’s Lutheran Church in Glenview, IL, and got to sit in Santa’s lap - unbelievable! One little girl, with tears in her eyes, told me she had never received more than one present for Christmas, ever. How blessed we are to share in these miracles!!
* Saturday December 16th found us embarking on a three week ‘clean-up, fix-up, finish-up all the projects we hadn’t had time to complete’ campaign as we prepare for the resumption of classes on January 8, 2007. And best of all we began construction on the new school kitchen/canteen/temporary Church building…WOW…TRULY A MIRACLE!!!
Please continue to support the students and staff of Holy Cross Anglican Primary School in your Christmas prayers and in your Holiday giving. Miracles happen a lot more often when we join together to do the work God has given us to do!
And, our Holiday prayer for each of you is best reflected in the words of Fr. Potter of Peckham…
"May the babe of Bethlehem bring you PEACE;
May the child of Nazareth bring you JOY;
May the man of Galilee bring you STRENGTH;
May the Christ of Calvary bring you COURAGE;
May the Risen Jesus bring you HOPE;
May the Ascended Christ bring you a fore taste of GLORY.”
Much love and blessings, Francis
Donations to Holy Cross can be made by check payable to “Holy Cross Anglican School” and sent to:
Anglican Diocese of Belize
PO Box 535
Belize City, Belize
See links to San Pedro Sun archives for more information and photographs of Christmas Festivities at the school.
Dedication of Special Ed class
Holy Cross Christmas party
Kids loved getting presents
Many people's donations helped make this a success
Destiny checking out her loot
Boys enjoying the party