Follow one of our newest partners, the University of Southern Mississippi, and their week long adventure in Belize! 

University of Southern Mississippi Chapter in Belize

August 16 – 23, 2019

August 16, 2019 – Arrival Day

University of Southern Mississippi has arrived to Belize!!

After a long day of traveling, our group of 5 students and staff leader Nneka made it to country about 1pm. We jumped in the van with Saul and Marie for a sweet 4.5 hour ride back to the Green Forest Lodge, but we stopped for delicious chicken burritos half way, of course! We got settled in at our home base, met Cindy, her 7 year old Raegan and her 2 month old daughter Sierra. We had some dinner (fresh chicken with sauce and wheat tortillas) cooked by Cindys mom Rose, had a quick orientation with Marie and then got ready for bed. 
We are looking forward to visiting the Mennonite village and ruins tomorrow!
 

August 17, 2019

Well! I started today with an open mind and I was prepared to see what our first adventure would be like in Belize. Although the night was quite warm, I slept pretty well. I was also looking forward to breakfast and it was very filling. We had tortillas, eggs, beans, and watermelon as well. After everyone was done eating, we set off to Roseville, which was a very interesting experience. I say this because I was not prepared for what their communities would be like, or how they would respond to us after seeing that we were Americans coming from a completely different culture. With that being said, the first village we went to (after driving through a river) was a little uncomfortable to be in because we felt like outsiders, however, they did sell us some of the produce we went there for. The next Mennonite village we went to was more helpful and seemed to have a genuine desire to provide us with the best produce they had to offer.

            Once we left their village, we came back to eat lunch which consisted of chicken, rice, and beans, that was deliciously seasoned and cooked. We headed to Lim Ni Pinut Mayan Ruins and we had a BALL walking through the area and exploring their history. We all enjoyed learning about the Mayan culture and taking pictures of the beautiful landscape and artifacts. Everyone also had a great time laughing at my attempt to be great which involved me getting stuck in a tree; but that’s the fun that memories are made out of! Right? Lol, Any who!

After exploring the area for the day, we returned to the lodge to enjoy a DELICIOUS meal made up of jack cakes, beans, mango (that was the size of our heads), and freshly squeezed watermelon juice. Our nightly discussion also gave us some beneficial insight on what 7elements does for the countries they cater to and it helped me put “everyday things” that I may take for granted into perspective. I enjoyed experiencing some of what Belize had to offer today and I am interested in learning much more.

-Leader of the Day, Bre

 

August 18, 2019

Hello Everyone, 
 
Day three in Belize was our first service day. We started out with an awesome breakfast burrito made of tortillas, black beans, eggs, and the most delicious mangos I’ve ever had in my life. To top off the breakfast burritos, I added a local hot sauce made of habanero peppers. Those peppers definitely wake you up in the morning and are a great way to start off your day. After breakfast we went to the local Mayan village of Medina Bank. This village has a few hundred residents and is fairly rural. For our service project for the community we are helping to build an auditorium for the local school which serves about 80 students. We began our project by partnering with community leaders to build trenches, mix concrete, and dig dirt to fill in the foundation of the structure. While the day was very hot and there was little relief from the sun, it was definitely a rewarding day to know that our few hours of service would have a lasting impact for the people of this community. For lunch we had hot tamales made by a local cook and cantaloupe grown on a local Mennonite village. The tamales were good and spicy, and reminded me of the tamales I grew up eating back home in the delta of Mississippi. After our work day was completed we returned to the lodge to take a much needed swim in the Deep River, which was only a short walk away, We enjoyed relaxing in the rivers cool stream, and some of us even took advantage of the opportunity and washed our clothes in the flowing waters. After we cooled down in the river we returned to the lodge for dinner and reflections. Mama Rose cooked a delicious dinner of a chicken soup medley, rice, coffee, and bananas from a local farm. After dinner Mama Rose, Cindy, and Saul talked to us about the history of Belize and the current state of the Mayan people that live primarily in the southern provinces. We had intriguing discussions about the political culture, economic opportunities, religious practices, and threats that face the Mayan people and culture. Day three was full of activity, and I am looking forward to day 4 where we will continue to progress towards completing our service project. 
 
From Belize, 
 
Erron Flowers
The University of Southern Mississippi 
 

August 19, 2019

 
Hey Everyone,
 
As day 4 comes to an end, i am reflecting on the events that made my day meaningful. I woke up not feeling well but i drank a lot of water and electrolytes to keep me going. This has been a new experience because in Mississippi it is very hot as well, but I am not usually outside as much. Here in Belize, we are participating in active work that we are not used to, so it can be challenging at times. 
Since it was raining really hard all morning, we waited for a while before going to work at our service sight. We arrived to Medina Bank and we helped mixed cement and put it in buckets to be laid out for brick application. I started to feel a little sick again with all the sun and lack of water in my system but luckily Saul, Marie, and Nneka took me to a clinic which was about 30 minutes to get me checked out. 
The clinic was a very interesting experience. I only had to pay $2.00 BZ ($1.00 US) for my visit, which is incredible compared to our costs of health care back home. Inside of the clinic there were many different people of many different races. Inside of the waiting room, Marie and I were talking to friendly strangers and observing a lot of interesting people. Anyway, the doctor prescribed me some medicine and I feel  better now. I appreciate everyone’s effort to make sure that I was okay.
Overall, my day went from POO! to WOOOOOO! Thanks for coming to my TED Talk 🙂
 
Signed, Kennedi Turner (aka Ken)

 

August 20, 2019

Day 5 was definitely an adventure! I started off the day with a workout in the jungle (this has been such a cool, new experience), then I got ready and we all gathered for breakfast. Breakfast was eggs with tomato, okra, and flour tortillas! We then headed out to the Bush Doctor. This was such an interesting and inspiring meeting with Alfonzo, the herbalist. Did you know that there are herbs that can treat headaches, cramps, soreness, and even diabetes, yellow fever, and cancer? He shared personal stories of instances the herbs he was showing us had worked and are still working today. In some of his cases, even modern medicine would not work, but his herbs did. Alfonzo inspired me by his desire to truly help the people. He is not worried about the money at all. He simply treats the people within his community out of the love and kindness of his heart and then asks them how much they can give or feel the need to give depending on the treatment he provides. After the bush doctor, we headed to the Rio Blanco Waterfalls. I was super excited for this, and it did NOT disappoint! The waterfalls were stunning. I have never seen a waterfall up close like I had the opportunity to see today. Not only did I see it, I got to jump off of a cliff into the river of the waterfalls and swim underneath the waterfall with Marie and Saul. My stomach dropped as I jumped off the cliff the first time, but after I did it once, I wanted to do it again and again! It was such an adrenaline rush! Being underneath a waterfall was mesmerizing honestly. It took my breath away to see how powerful and beautiful this water was as it was coming down from the inside of it. I was afraid of how to get out of the waterfall, because of the strong current, but eventually I swam out of it and made it out alive! There was even a “stage” for me to dance on at the waterfalls, which made me very happy. I danced on a platform off to the side of the waterfall, and it was a very freeing, joyful experience. Next, we headed back to the lodge, but we made a stop of Cindy’s grandfather’s on the way back to gather some fresh mango (my favorite!!) and some crafts made by Rose’s mother. Once we arrived back at the lodge, I took some time to reflect on my day and my experience so far in Belize. We ate dinner shortly after, which was spaghetti and the mango we got today. Rose’s cooking has been phenomenal every time! During our nightly discussion, we talked about identity. This was an enlightening and vulnerable experience for me, and I feel like these kinds of talks should be had more often. There are issues people are facing that I knew nothing about and vice versa. Communication and asking for help is so important, and so is being the person to step in and help. However, I do want to say that one major thing I have learned on this trip is to serve alongside others, WITH them. I have adjusted my outlook on how I perceive and think about the people I serve. I do not want to seem superior or more wealthy just because I am here to help. I want to be a friend. I want to give and serve to my greatest ability as well as receive and learn for the Mayan people and their ways. Overall, I had enjoyed my experience here in Belize through all of the ups and downs (mostly ups)! Belize is full of beautiful people and land. I admire how the take care of the earth and rely on the earth to take care of them. I can’t wait to continue with our service project tomorrow and hope to keep learning and growing here in Belize!

 
With love,
Casey Collier  

 

August 21, 2019

 we had another amazing breakfast and got ready for our last workday. It has been raining on and off, so Marie ordered dirt to be delivered to the site. This was an amazing idea, and saved hours of work, especially since it has been raining so much. The rain really affects the flow of the work at the project site. 

 
Once we arrived, everyone got to work; however, I immediately noticed that my illness of the last three days made me so weak that I could barely stand up — and the sun and extreme heat made it impossible. Casey was not doing any better, and soon we had to rest. We both felt so guilty for not being able to help everyone else like we had on the other days, but Marie and Erron were our champions to make us feel better about being sick and checking up on us. Erron would come over and ask what he could do to help us and encourage us. These words were so inspiring to both Casey and me. We feared everyone would be upset with us, but we knew it would out of our control.
 
Our teammates, Marie, Erron, Bre, Nneka, and Kennedi were total rockstars at the worksite. I have never seen people work so hard in my life. Not only did they rally around us to help us when we are sick — they took up the slack and rocked the project like they have done it a million times. I have never been so proud to be a part of a team, a project — to have such amazing friends who will help you when you are down and celebrate with you when you are up — in my life. 
 
The night ended with a dip in the river – a very high river, an amazing soup to heal our bellies, and a storm that sounded like a hurricane all throughout the night. It was a memorable day. <3 

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