Belize Program Description and Sample Itinerary
Known as the Jewel of the Caribbean, Belize is a land of ancient treasures, teeming with life and mystery. Here, shaded below jungle canopies, you can find ancient vine-wrapped temples of the Mayan Empire. Beneath its ocean waves you can discover the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Underground, there are caves and waterways that often appear on the surface as small blue pools. But the greatest treasure of Belize can be found beneath sheet metal rooftops of informal settlements and cloth awnings of remote jungle villages–its people. When you volunteer in Belize with WCI, you’ll discover more than just what’s on the surface. You’ll see more than sparkling beaches and colorful wildlife. You’ll do more than zipline through jungle treetops or crest Mayan ruins. You’ll have the opportunity to serve others, and in doing that, you will find the true Jewel of the Caribbean.
A Brief Overview of Belize
Belize is considered a jewel in Central America. It is well known for its rich Mayan heritage, and evidence of this is visible with its numerous archaeological sites referred to by locals as “Maya ruins.” Home to the world’s second longest barrier reef, Belize is an ideal spot for deep sea fishing, diving, snorkeling and numerous other water sports, and is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. As for native Belizeans, agriculture is their main source of income, and it’s easy to see why. With an area of 8,867 sq miles, Belize is one of the most sparsely inhabited countries in the world, with only 360,000 residents.
Belize is a Central American country, but it is also considered part of the Caribbean, due to the fact that its entire coastline is washed by the Caribbean Sea. Its history is as unique as its location, having been ruled by England up until September 1981, when it became an independent country. Belize is the only country in Central America with English as its official language, but Spanish is also widely spoken here, due to neighboring Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south.
Where We Serve in Belize
With a low population density and a unique jungle topography, Belize is primarily a rural country with few significantly populated villages and cities. Because of this, the places we serve fall into two categories: rural and semi-rural.
In the western part of Belize, in the villages of the Cayo District, there is a large population of immigrant families, some of whom settled illegally due to the abundance of rich agricultural land and lack of surveillance by the authorities. Here there is often inadequate infrastructure, basic utilities, and reliable transportation. In the southern part of Belize there is a mix of immigrants and native Belizeans who work in the citrus and banana industries. Because this is mostly seasonal work, some people are unable to afford adequate housing and proper healthcare.
In the northern districts most villages were settled by sugar cane farmers and fishermen. Some of these families are better off than many who live in other parts of the country, but inadequate infrastructure and a shortage of basic affordable healthcare is the same as in other villages in Belize.
The Need in Belize
The Belize Ministry of Health provides free primary healthcare at community hospitals located in major towns and more advanced care at regional hospitals. Regional care is more expensive, as more advanced tests are often required and regional hospitals may be as far as two hours away from many of the villages in Belize. There is only one tertiary care institution in the country, where patients are referred on a per need basis. The public health department brings mobile clinics to several villages every six weeks, but they provide only post-natal care and administer vaccines.
A large portion of the population in these villages suffer from seasonal illnesses and either use local remedies or receive no treatment at all. Many other villagers suffer from chronic diseases that remain untreated due to the geographical and socioeconomic challenges of obtaining proper medical care.
As you can imagine, the need is amplified among women and children. The Belize Ministry of Heath is very pleased that Well Child International has increased our work on behalf of the women and children of Belize.
What You Will Be Doing with WCI to Bring Health Care to the Women and Children—See Itinerary Below
As with any great work, it takes great relationships to get the job done well. That’s why WCI Belize is excited to partner with nonprofits, NGOs, and governmental and religious institutions to better serve the people of Belize.
King’s Children Home
Maternal and Child Health Centers
Primary schools in rural communities
University of Belize
What to Expect as a Volunteer
You’ll arrive in Belize via the Philip S W Goldson International Airport. This is the only international airport in Belize, located approximately 20 minutes away from Belize City. After going through Customs and retrieving your luggage, you will be met by an WCI staff member and transported by taxi, van, or bus (arranged and paid for by WCI) to your hotel or guest house in the area closest to your work site. Depending on the area in which you’ll be volunteering, the ride to housing varies from one to two hours.
You will travel daily with WCI staff to your volunteer location. These villages may be as close as 15 minutes away or as far as an hour away, depending on the time of year and road conditions. You will remain at your assigned housing for the working part of your stay and then relocate to a hotel on the island of Caye Caulker for recreation day activities and your departure the following day. See R & R day on sample itinerary.
With WCI, you’ll have many opportunities to explore the culture of those you serve. Here are some of the many possibilities.
Learn how to make one of the many famous and delicious Belizean dishes and drinks.
Learn a variety of local cultural dances including punta, zapatiada, and the waltz.
Visit the Belize Botanical Garden, numerous archaeological sites, natural medicine trails, the Green Iguana Conservation Project, caves and waterfalls, and an old favorite, the local hot sauce factory.
Local Farmers’ Market
Although the market is open every day, Tuesdays and Saturdays are considered the best market days, when the farmers from neighboring communities offer their best deals on their freshest produce.
Taught by members of a local women’s group, you can learn how to make native crafts and have something special to take home when you’re done volunteering.
Visit with a native Belizean who makes medicines from plants collected in the jungle. Get a close-up view of the process from beginning to end.
When it comes time to get out and explore, you’ll see why Belize is said to be one of the most breathtaking places on earth.
Walk through the ancient ruins of the Mayan Empire and learn about the haunting legend of the Stone Woman. $10-$15 dollars (lunch not included), 3-4 hour tour
Take a guided tropical river adventure up the New River and explore Mayan ruins first hand. $50-$60 (lunch included) Full Day Tour
Cave’s Branch Outpost
Open for volunteers in the Cayo and Stann Creek District, Cave’s Branch Adventure Company offers the surreal experience of tubing through a jungle cave and the exhilarating rush of a jungle zipline. $25-$40 (several options)
Belize’s Barrier Reef
Take advantage of this opportunity to see the beauty beneath the waves of the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.
Half day snorkeling: $35. Tropical fruits, water, guide and equipment included.
Full day snorkeling: $70. Tropical fruits, lunch, water, guide and equipment included.
The Inland Blue Hole
A blue hole is a large marine cavern, or sinkhole, which is open on the surface and perfect for swimming! Dive deep into the enchanting turquoise waters of one of Belize’s best kept secrets. $25
Accommodations are safe, clean, and within reasonable driving distance to service sites and recreational opportunities. Volunteers are provided their own bed, easy access to restrooms and showers, and meeting spaces for training and fellowship. WCI accommodations are unique and may include retreat houses, guest houses or home stays, all of which provide a distinctive cultural experience. WCI Country Coordinators will provide a description of your lodging in the Final Trip Document.
WCI Itinerary Outline
Belize – 8 Days Sample
*This itinerary is subject to change
Goal: To learn about health issues affecting women and children, assist local maternal and child health care providers, experience Belizean culture and recreational activities (see Day 7), MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Day 1 Arrival
Meet group leader at Philip Goldson Airport — Belize City.
Travel to Orange Walk Town (approximately 1.5 hours from the international airport) or San Ignacio Town (2 hours from airport)
Settle into housing
Discuss tomorrow’s agenda, retire for the night
Day 2 – General and Medical Orientation
General Orientation with Group Leader- Learn basic facts about Belize, its people and culture
Discuss program standards and guidelines
Walkthrough of the Northern Regional Hospital
Afternoon: Medical Orientation- Learn about the health care system of Belize
Meet professionals that provide maternal and child health care; Get familiar with scheduling for the coming days and practice necessary skills that will be required for the various health care activities.
Basic Spanish Session in preparation for the week’s activities
Evening: Familiarization walk through downtown Orange Walk Town or San Ignacio Town
Day 3 – Day 6
Join maternal and child health care providers for the day’s activities (See listing below)
Lunch in the fields
Continue with schedule activities
Evening: Discuss day’s experience and plan for tomorrow
Day 7- R&R (3 Options)
1. Caye Caulker (2 hours by road plus 45 minutes boat ride). This is a beautiful little island just off the coast. You can pay for special recreation (snorkeling/scuba, kayaking, etc) OR relax, do the beach, shop, etc
Option to snorkel for US$35 per person half day, scuba, mangrove kayaking, fishing, shopping, beach time We will be spending the night on the island!
2. If working in Orange Walk, visit the archaeological site of Lamanai (a scenic 1.5 hours boat ride up the New River then tour of the site, shop for souvenirs before returning to Orange Walk Town) US$50 per person
3. If working in San Ignacio, visit the archaeological site of Cahal Pech (a scenic 1.5 hours boat ride up the New River then tour of the site, shop for souvenirs before returning to San Ignacio Town. US$50 per person
Discuss tomorrow’s departure agenda and share the experience.
Day 8- Departure
Travel to airport for departure
- Breakfast and lunch day 2 through 6. (volunteers buy breakfast on R&R and Departure days).
- Dinner on arrival day, and one other night during the trip. (volunteers buy dinner for remaining nights)
- Transportation for the entire duration of trip
- Housing for the entire duration of trip
- Local staff for entire duration of trip (medical, drivers, team leaders, interpreters, etc)
Day 3 to 6 Clinical Activities can be any of the following based on scheduling
The Orange Walk District has five (5) health centers serving a population of approximately 42 500. We provide primary care services which includes the following:
- Prenatal Care
- Postnatal care
- Child Health services such as vaccination, nutrition assessment, early child development
- Cervical screening
- Preconception care
- Family Planning
- Health education
- School programs such as deworming
- HIV And TB screening
- Home visits for clinical screenings
Optional Extra Curricular Activities
- Cultural dance class
- Belizean Cooking Class
- Visit to Farmer’s Market
- Medicinal plant trail visit
- Sessions on Issues affecting women and children in Belize
- Sessions pertaining to common illnesses in the area and how they are managed
- Beach time in Caye Caulker (see day 7 above for more activities on Caye Caulker)
- Visit to Archaeological site (Lamanai)
Funding Your Trip
Contact: Funding@WellChildInternational.org or (509) 640-6767