On June 21st we awaited eagerly for our students to arrive. Nearly two hours passed before we caught a glance of our first student wearing a royal blue shirt with the words “Be the Change.” Over the next two weeks they would discover what those words really meant. Students noted the humidity and warmth, meanwhile introducing themselves to each other, not know they would soon become deeply bonded by the power of service and adventure.
Our first contact with the St. Augustine students came the following Thursday. We described this interaction as magical. It was only a brief interaction but it provided our students with a taste of what was to come. Their initial reactions to the Belizean students filled us with hope and excitement for the upcoming service. Soccer games, swings, skipping and many hugs quickly set the tone for upcoming time with the Belize students.
Although the GLA students were eager to jump into service with the children, we were only able to spend a few moments with them before the weekend arrived. We made great use of time by first tackling a project on the playground of St. Augustine. We effectively turned a plain wooden playground from “drab to fab” as the students used their creative energy to repaint the playground in colors resembling that of a carnival. A few T-shirts were “ruined” but their wearers were thankful for the memories stored by their brush marks.
They following day we traveled to San Ignacio to tour a local market and hang out at the iguana sanctuary. Thunder storms and heavy rain didn’t dampen our spirits after hearty meal of stew chicken a local restaurant called “Benny’s.” We dominated the small diner atmosphere with our laughter. With full bellies, we headed out to the ancient Maya ruins of Cahal Pech. This place yielded an enriching experience with the ability to tour an excavated ancient ruin. We were able to walk the halls and visit the rooms of the Mayas as we learned about their traditions and practices. We finished the weekend with a visit the “Blue-hole” national park. Due to the recent rains and sediments in the water, the blue hole was murky brown. Regardless, the students jumped in, eager to cool off after a hike through a Maya cave.
Our week was saturated by service at St. Augustine and various cultural outings:
- Marie Sharps Hot Sauce Factory
- Lamanai Chocolate making demonstration
- Dangriga open mic-night
- Cooking class with Alecia
- Belize Zoo
- Snorkeling at Tobacco Caye
Service proved to be transformative as the GLA students took on roles as classroom leaders. Their first day with the Belizean students was undoubtedly difficult, as GLA students recognized the vast differences in structure, culture and behavior of the school. Doubt never surfaced in our students, instead they came together as a team and addressed those differences. They developed a plan for successful interactions with the Belizean students and implemented it the following service days with tact and tenacity. They fostered a culture of love and positivity as they encouraged Belizean youth to pursue their dreams with confidence.
We witnessed countless meaningful relationships develop between our leaders and the Belizean students. Our post service discussions were filled with comments of gratitude, appreciation, lessons learned, and awareness. As their relationships with the students flourished their friendships amongst one another grew intensely.
Emotions ran high as they found the humanity in one another and dove deep into lasting relationships. We feel incredibly privileged as mentors to have witnessed these changes on an individual level and as a group.
GLA Staff Team