Rotary Club of Sylvania

District 6600, Sylvania Rotary, service above self.

Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.  

Rotary club membership represents a cross-section of the community's business and professional men and women. The world's Rotary clubs meet weekly and are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds.

Rotary membership provides the opportunity to: Become connected to your community. Work with others in addressing community needs. Interact with other professionals in your community; assist with RI's international humanitarian service efforts. Establish contacts with an international network of professionals. Develop leadership skills. Involve family in promoting service efforts

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Sylvania Rotary Projects

Education in Belize 
International Project of the 
Sylvania Rotary Club

Field trip #3

Equipping and training community personnel
at the first three Resource Center sites 


Overview

There are approximately two hundred villages in Belize where the primary language spoken at home is either Spanish or one of the many Mayan dialects. When children start school almost 100% know no English; but English is the official language of Belize and the only language used in the education system. The primary purpose of the Resource Center is to provide a program whereby mothers can come with their preschool children to be exposed to English prior to entering school. The Resource Centers will also offer many secondary benefits: computer classes, arts and crafts, tutoring, English classes, a library, etc. Just as important is the overall community control and involvement in each Resource Center. The end result will be raising the standards of education and socialization within their community.

Summary

Under the auspices of the Sylvania Rotary, seven project team members spent from seven to 14 days in Belize working on establishing the first three Resource Center sites in under-developed villages in Belize. The work involved: 


* modifying each site so that it was appropriate for its intended purpose 
* insuring that each site had a local committee established, with a Director who was directly responsible for the functioning of the site 
* training community members who would be responsible for presenting and teaching programs at the center 
* writing an operational plan for each site 
* identifying communities that would like to have centers developed for them in the future. 

The above work involved the help and coordination of many different people and entities. At the end of the two week work project, centers were established in three communities and three additional communities were chosen for future projects.

Preparations

Prior to sending the team to Belize equipment and supplies were sent via container. The shipment of the container was made possible through the coordination of Tim Tam of the Word of God and Gary Davis, Operations Director of MESA; and paid for by the Belize Natural Energy Trust. Arrangements for storing the contents of the container were made by Eric Maas and Deborah Sewell of the Belmopan Rotary. Almost all the supplies and equipment were donated by organizations or individuals in the Sylvania, Ohio area. 

During field trips #1 and #2 locations were chosen by Mel Honig after personal visits to Belize. This was primarily accomplished with the help of Dr. Toni Baker, Professor of Education at the University of Belize (U.B.). Two sites immediately selected were the communities of Armenia and St Margarets. A later site located on property owned by the University of Belize was added to serve the community of Salvapan. This last site will be used as an integral part of the Department of Education of U.B. 

A team was selected to go to Belize. The team consisted of: 
* Mel Honig, Sylvania Rotary and project coordinator 
* Judy Riggle, Oberlin Rotary and librarian/trainer 
* Elana Honig, early childhood and music educator and trainer 
* Toni Gonzalez, historian and trainer 
* Akrum Youssef, engineer 
* Justin Kendall, computer expert and trainer 
* Danny McCormick, computer expert and trainer 

Each member of the team was responsible for their own expenses, with minimum financial support from outside sources.

The Sites 

The Developmental Community Center of Armenia was the first site worked on because it required the most updating. An advance team of Mel, Akrum and Justin arrived three days before the others to start work at the site that included: painting, building security doors, upgrading electricity, installing lighting, installing air conditioning and plumbing repair. Much of the work was done by the community, especially Lazaro (as he said ‘I am Mayan and don’t speak Spanish’) who donated an entire weeks work to the projects in Armenia and St Margaret’s. 

Once updating was completed, equipment and supplies were delivered and training begun. The equipment and supplies, less the computers, were picked up from storage and brought to the Armenia library were it was divided between each site. The computers were stored at the Belize Natural Energy Trust (BNE) building, and distributed last. 

The Armenia Village Chairman, Pedro Garcia, along with the help of local Peace Corps volunteer, Zan Larsen identified volunteers who would operate and present programs at the Armenia Resource Center. Job was chosen Director of the center with Alicia and Delores being the primary people responsible for presenting programs. Meetings were held with the high school students in both Armenia and St Margaret’s. All the students volunteered to help with computer training and after school tutorials. 

St Margaret’s was the second community to be worked on. Here we had a problem because: 
* The room chosen for the Resource Center was inadequate, and 
* The community was under the impression that we were only going to build and equip a computer lab. 

This dilemma required another town meeting. In the meantime the principal, William Castillo, offered a classroom in the recently completed classroom building as the Resource Center. At the meeting the villagers affirmed their desire to have a Resource Center. They chose a Director (Lilly) and committee to plan it’s overall operation. Making these decisions was not easy because many in the community did not like the idea of having the center on school property. In the end it was decided that this was the best solution because the only other available building was several miles out of town and in poor condition. 

Lilly quickly organized the community into action and the next day we were building partitions to isolate the computer center from the rest of the Resource Center. The community sent a truck to Armenia to pick up their equipment and supplies, and the project team once again was actively involved in setting up the center and training community personnel in its operation. 

The site at Salvapan was significantly different from the other two sites. This site was to be operated under the direction of Dr. Toni Baker of U.B., with U.B. students providing the training for the community. The site was located adjacent to Salvapan, but on U.B. property. Dr Baker arranged for two classrooms, one a computer/study center and the other a community learning center. Both rooms were outfitted with equipment, supplies and computers, but no training was conducted, as this was being left up to Dr. Baker and the University of Belize.

Training

All the project team members worked with and helped train the local community representatives. They set up the centers, identified community needs, wrote operating plans, and introduced the community to the programs they were interested in. 

Training was given for music, literacy, math, story hour, enrichment activities, etc., and basic to complex computer operation. Village representatives were also given instruction concerning operation of the center as to time management, setting up classes and sharing work loads. 

Computer training was perhaps the most interesting, because in this case it was the adults learning from the children. Classes were given simultaneously by Justin and Dan at each of the two sites to the adults and to the high school students. The adults required basic education (how to turn the computer on, and what a mouse is), while the high school students got more advanced instruction. The last day of instruction it was the high school students who took over and were teaching the adults how to use the computers and computer software.

Future Sites

A meeting was held with the Board of the Village Council Chairmen of the Cayo District with the purpose of encouraging other communities to start Resource Centers. Two of the four board members requested us to give presentations to their communities. 

The first community we went to was Billy White. After our presentation we went outside so the community could discuss the proposal. Upon returning the villagers said they wanted to be considered as a future site, agreed to upgrade their Community Center, and chose a committee to operate the Resource Center. Billy White has a population of around 350 people, and it is estimated that about 150 of the villagers showed up for the meeting. 

At the next community, Frank’s Eddy, we did not give a presentation to the community, but to the school administration, village Chairman, and the Parent Teachers Association. This community is growing very rapidly and does not have a community center. They did however want a Resource Center, and even though their school is overcrowded, offered us one building that had two rooms, a classroom and a library/storage room. They said they would build a temporary shelter outside where they would move the classroom. This idea was rejected because we felt that it would be inappropriate to take up valuable school space for the Resource Center. It just didn’t feel right. The Frank’s Eddy group said they would try to build a community center as soon as possible. 

The last community we visited was Duck Run I (yes, there is a Duck Run II and III). We contacted the Village Chairman and on the same day he set up a meeting for that evening. About 60 people showed up in a community of only 250. Once again we were in a school, but the community had just completed a luncheon shelter for the children who do not go home for lunch. After our presentation the community decided that they would redesign the shelter so that it could accommodate a Resource Center. 

Billy White and Duck Run I are only a few kilometers apart, with several other communities in the area. We are trying to get at least two more on line, so that when we return later this year, we will have four Resource Centers to start in this area.

Conclusions

The Spanish and Mayan communities of Cayo District, Belize are hungry to become bilingual and enter into the computer age. They realize the economic and social necessity to learn English, and whether they are teachers, students, parents, a community member, Mayan or Spanish, there is a strong desire to have a community run and controlled Resource Center, not only for the benefit of their children but the community as a whole. Mel Honig, International Committee Sylvania Rotary

 

Meeting Time: 
Every Thursday at 11:45 AM

Meeting Place: 
Highland Meadows Country Club
7455 Erie St
Sylvania, OH 43560


Mail: 
Rotary Club of Sylvania
P.O. Box 121 
Sylvania, OH  43560

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