Giving Back …
Often when we visit, we want get immersed in the local culture. There’s barrier between the local culture and the tourists. For the locals it may be hard to relate to a tourist because of the level of affluence, the contrast in values, or typical differences between cultures. Some may see tourist as a short-term visitor but here’s how to really get to know the local Belizean culture.
One of the best ways to intimately experience a local culture is by immersing yourself into working alongside and serving the culture, you visit. Nothing can get you fully immersed in the culture than giving back.
You will find yourself building closer relationships with locals by understanding their “true culture,” well beyond the “tourist culture” you see from the streets.
I am sure that you did your research and know that the Barrier Reef in Belize is the second largest reef in the world, stretching almost 200 miles long. It is no wonder that it is a lure for over 100,000 curious visitors annually. Did you realize that this reef protects the Belizean coast from tropical storms, ocean waves, and erosion and without the coral reef; the beautiful shores of Belize would eventually disappear? This reef is home to numerous species of both hard and soft corals, along with hundreds of species of fish and invertebrate.
This protected reef is at risk from a variety of factors, including ocean pollution, global warming, biodiversity, and even humans, which hinder the rejuvenation of the coral. The Belizeans are well aware of his fate and are grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who annually visit the island, not as tourists, but as researchers who are helping to protect their beautiful island.
These benevolent volunteers join various projects that conduct research studies through exploration and observation of the conditions surrounding the reef in order to help preserve this fundamental ecosystem. Frontier USA, LLC, offers a Marine Conservation and Diving project in Belize that is looking for volunteers to explore, chart, and monitor extensive portions of the reef in order to obtain baseline information to educate others to ensure the sustainable management of the reef going forward. A second program offered by Frontier is the Belize Beach Conservation project that fully immerses one with nature in Belize.
The base camp is located on the beach and you become one with nature, abandoning the luxuries that you are accustomed to and living with the basics. The work itself consists of monitoring the coral and seagrass beds along the reef, but also the mangrove forests and lagoons onshore. Belizeans welcome the conservation efforts that you are providing. Their homes and lives are dependent upon the preservation of the Barrier Reef and they are eternally grateful and forever connected with the volunteers through their mutual interest in protecting the barrier.
ReefCI is another organization that is conducting research along the Barrier Reef and is currently looking for individuals to join the Spearheading Lionfish Conservation project, which is an extreme effort in order to help control the lionfish population in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean waters.
The lionfish are aggressive predators that are upsetting the ecological balance and destroying the reef by eating all the beneficial fish that are essential to the well-being of the coral system.
During your service, you will stay on a remote Caribbean island and immersed in the cultural way of life all the while working in tandem with locals who are serving the same purpose as you. Other conservation opportunities include the Belize Manatee Conservation in which you will study and record the behaviors of the West Indian Manatee.
The country and islands of Belize are rich in history and Belizeans are extremely proud of their heritage. Ongoing discovery of the secrets of the Mayan culture is possible through programs such as the Maya Research Program that specializes in archaeological and ethnographic research. The Blue Creek Archaeological project includes excavation, mapping, and plotting various Mayan sites in Northwestern Belize and protecting those sites for future study. There is no better way to connect personally with the local culture than by taking part in the exploration of their history.
The great thing about many of the volunteer projects is that a lot of them are accommodating, so do not be afraid if you cannot commit to long-term projects. If you can only volunteer for a couple of weeks at a time, many of the projects allow for that kind of flexibility.
There is no better way to relate to the true culture of Belize than by experiencing what life is like without all of the amenities that we generally take for granted. A project sponsored by A Broader View is seeking volunteers to assist those children living at the Orphanage in Belize City. At last count, there were over 40 residents at the orphanage: these children depend upon the love and support received from those volunteers who devote their time to spend with them.
These children do not have elaborate electronic devices in which to entertain themselves, they do not have air conditioning in which to be comfortable, they do not have vast options of what to eat, but what they are is happy to be alive. They are thankful and humbled for every minute that the volunteers spend with them and cherish those shared memories long after they leave.
One misinterpretation that becomes evident after immersion is the initial incorrect perception of what an individual or culture needs and the desired need. Once relationships are established, a better understanding as to why the original perception was wrong becomes obvious.
Community is very important to those living in Belize. GoAbroad.com is looking for volunteers for a Community Centre Construction project in Calla Creek. The community center in this city is not just for the occasional congregation but utilized daily as a classroom for young students, a breakfast center, and a meeting space for community affairs. Unfortunately, the building is no longer safe for use and a reconstruction will take place. The volunteers will work closely with the Cayo District residents to overhaul this significant structure for the community. Other construction opportunities in and around Belize, include Construction and Gardening around the P.A.W. Cat Sanctuary facilities located on Caye Caulker.
Broadreach offers an amazing Belize Wilderness First Responder program, which is perfect for those individuals looking to start a career in the field of medicine. You will be completely absorbed in the culture and learn about the mixture of both modern medicine and the ancient healing methods of the Mayan healers. Your medical room is out in the wilderness within the tropical jungles and among the exotic wildlife.
You will interact with and gain a better understanding of the conditions in which the amazing people of Belize actually live. You will gain practical knowledge of what levels of healthcare are currently available and how to shift a developing country toward progress that includes preventative medicine.
Domestic pets are an important part of our lives, regardless of where we live, just as veterinary care is an important part of theirs. Some countries just do not have the facilities or the staff to care for these animals. Volunteer Global has a number of projects available that are open to individuals looking to volunteer in Belize. The Cat Behavior Specialist, Animal Caretaking, Humane Animal Education, and Interim Cat Sanctuary Director are projects that all collaborate with the Belize P.A.W. Cat Sanctuary and Humane Society. They are looking for volunteers who can not only assist with educating the local children about how to take care of a pet, but to also contribute with looking after, caring for, and socializing with the domesticated residents at the shelter who have either been abandoned, abused, or neglected. Their ultimate goal is to have these animals learn to trust humans again so that they will be more adoptable for those individuals and families looking to adopt and provide that forever home.
There are dozens of other projects that may not come to mind when considering volunteer work. There is a project sponsored through Performing Arts Abroad that is looking for volunteers to run a Film Camp for the at-risk youth in Belize. Not only does the camp provide a useful skill for these young individuals, but it also teaches and empowers these young Belizeans to give back to their community themselves. These films will then appear all over Belize through online media. Other opportunities include Art Marketing and Sales that includes working in a local art store; Community Surveying for the local animal shelter; and Social Networking and Blogging for local businesses.
There are numerous ways to become involved and give back to a particular culture and/or community. The reward is acceptance and trust. The locals see that you are not just interested in them on the surface, but also genuinely committed to their culture as a whole. Volunteering in Belize will help you uncover the true culture of a community is an experience you can never buy.
Find Your Passion and Get Involved in Belizean Culture
Frontier USA, LLC
Marine Conservation and Diving
Belize Beach Conservation
Belize Manatee Conservation
Maya Research Program
Blue Creek Archaeological
A Broader View
Orphanage in Belize City
Construction and Gardening
Belize Wilderness First Responder
Cat Behavior Specialist
Humane Animal Education
Interim Cat Sanctuary Director
Performing Arts Abroad
Art Marketing and Sales
Social Networking and Blogging