Monday, June 20, 2016


We had some major tropical thunderstorms last night. The thunder, lightning and wind made us think we were going to whatever the Belize equivalent of Oz might be!

By morning the weather was greatly improved and we headed out for breakfast and shopping along the boardwalk in Placencia. Most of us stopped in the Swiss Chalet for homemade cinnamon rolls (they were un-Belizeable!) We bought lots of souvenirs, the charms and earrings carved from conch shells were a popular purchase.

It was a bummer that chance of more storms and rough water stopped Chris, Elizabeth and Judy from going out on a snorkeling trip. Elizabeth made the best of it by spending the day on the beach digging a hole almost as deep as she is tall! The storms brought in a lot of seaweed, so we heard many screams of, something is touching me!!! throughout the day. We enjoyed playing in the waves, napping, reading and/or just soaking up the sunshine when it finally peeked out.

We all went to dinner together at a great fresh (caught today!) seafood restaurant called "De Tatch." Our group of 18 was really loud and pretty much filled the restaurant. We felt a little bad for a young couple who were there for a nice quiet romantic dinner! Oops!
We got some great pictures of the full moon reflecting on the ocean right outside the restaurant.
After dinner we all walked to the other end of the boardwalk for an after dinner treat of gelato, well worth the walk!

We sat on the beach and had an beautiful sharing of prayer and reflection about the week. A few tears, a lot of laughs, and many hugs from old and new friends were shared.

It's hard to believe the week is over. Please continue to pray for our safe travel as we begin our journey by boat, bus and airplane.

Quote of the day: That burrito is as big as a baby!

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Took a quick trip into town this morning. One group visited with Mr. Vernon from the Ministry of Health and stopped in for a visit at the hospital. Margie was able to talk with a nurse in the labor and delivery area. She found out that if a laboring mom has complications that might require a cesarean section, she would be sent by ambulance TWO HOURS north, down some very bumpy roads, to have the surgery in Dangriga. That makes me appreciate good local hospitals.
A second group strolled around the market. Chris was really excited to find star fruit, and even more excited that she got four of them for 50 cents.

We headed north by bus to Independence and then caught a water taxi to Placencia. The rest of the day was spent relaxing on the beach and thinking about how blessed we've been to spend the week together.
A huge storm chased us off the beach late in the afternoon, just in time to clean up and head out for dinner.


Another busy day in Belize.
We headed out to the three villages to wrap up construction projects and visit the schools. We played a lot of classic games like Barrel of Monkeys, Uno, dominoes, ring toss and checkers (on a giant outdoor checkerboard.) We also did some face painting and finished up some other projects.

The entire team went to Pueblo Viejo for a beautiful presentation by the students and staff. They performed traditional dances including the Cacao dance and a modern interpretive dance. The students sang their national anthem (all five verses) and the principal presented small thank you gifts to everyone who helped in the village.
After the presentations, we were treated to lunch in the school dining area. The chicken soup was delicious and we even got carrot cake for dessert.

Tessa and Barb had to leave from Pueblo Viejo to catch a ride to the Punta Gorda airport. Our woodworking friend, Pedro, was kind enough to offer to pick them up. He was a little late which leads to the first quote of the day: Just call an Uber!

From there we drive back to Santa Cruz for another lovely thank you celebration, and, you guessed it, ANOTHER LUNCH! This time it was chicken caldo, tortillas and a cacao drink. Ann was presented with a Mayan blouse made by a woman in the village. The seamstress must have been measuring her in a sneaky way because she got the size just tight.

The next stop was Santa Elena for a third thank you ceremony, but thankfully not another lunch!

We stopped at a waterfall on the way home and took some nice pictures. There was a lot of thunder as we headed back to the car, but the rain held off until after we were all tucked in for the night.

Dinner was at a restaurant right on the water, the perfect ending to a great week.

A coupe funny quotes today. The first was from Dawn. She noticed that Abbe had a bunch of mosquito bites and said, "If you don't get malaria, no one will!" (FYI- we are all taking anti-malaria meds).

Chris and Barb were painting picnic tables with a really bad paintbrush and one of them said, "that's not a paintbrush, it's a hairbrush!"

Friday, June 17, 2016


Despite the forecast of a rainy day, we had another HOT, sunny, jam-packed, wonderful day.

Sydney and Kristen should be asking for substitute teacher pay from the Ministry of Education since they basically took over the classroom of the principal/teacher who was absent again due to her injured foot. Despite the craziness, they were able to finish PenPal letters and make foam crosses with the Our Father. They made bracelets using special beads that change colors in sunlight. It was fun to see how excited the children were when their beads changed. They also did some amazing face painting, including several full face tiger paint jobs.
Four picnic table are totally finished (including paint) and two more should be ready to go by tomorrow. After sharing tools all week between Santa Elena and Santa Cruz (about a 10 minute drive in between), we discovered last night that Lee, the owner of Tranquility Lodge where we are staying, has tools we can borrow. Typical way things work in Belize!

In Pueblo Viejo the students finished PenPal letters and finished their clay beaded necklaces. Dawn and Kathy made beautiful tissue paper butterflies with the younger kids. Judy taught the students the song "Go Make a Difference" which they will sing at their graduation next week. They added a bit of choreography to help make their celebration extra special.
As Dawn was walking from one classroom to another, she noticed a dog with its nose in the bag of lunches. She ran over to shoo the dog and it took off running carrying the whole bag of lunches! We wish we had a video of her running after the dog! The dog eventually dropped the bag but had apparently eaten several sandwiches, plastic wrap and all! Good thing our teachers were invited to lunch in the home of the principal, Stephen.

In Santa Cruz Tessa, Elizabeth and Barb also finished PenPal letters, worked on foam crosses and made acrostic poems using their names. They had fun teaching the younger girls how to bump a volleyball.

Another group headed down the long bumpy road to Otoxha. Holly and Margie presented another Women's Health discussion. About 35 women showed up, plus a few more peeking in through the window! They were joined by some pharmacy school interns from the U.S. working at Hillside Clinic.
Anita and Alli tagged along to visit "their kids." Lots of hugs and smiles. They did a quick art project with all of the students.
Ann, Roy and Abbe met with Mr Manuel, the principal, to get the information we need to help solve the ongoing water issue. Roy took a GPS reading to find the highest elevation point for locating the system.
From there the group drive to San Lucas for more Women's Health discussions and a quick school visit. As soon as we got out of the van we heard many loud shouts of "Miss Alli, Miss Alli!" Despite the 90+ degree heat and 90% humidity, Alli joined in a wicked soccer game during their hour long PE class.
Ann, Roy and Abbe worked with people to be sure they are correctly cleaning the bucket filtration systems our group brought last year. The systems need to be back flushed once a week and some families have be bad about doing this vitally important step. Roy was handed one bucket to flush and as he took it apart he realized the bucket had sat unused for so long that there were flies and maggots in the filter (ewwwwwwww!). He cleaned out the filter,and then to prove to the family that the water was really safe, he drank a big cup of the freshly filtered water! Go Roy!

Quite of the day is a funny story. As we stopped to drop of something at Corazon Creek High School a man asked if we had supplies to repair his broken glasses. We used our MacGuiver type skills, a red pipe cleaner (actually part of the uterus model) and white medical tape to get the glasses repaired!

We're a little sad that it's the end of the week😕

Thursday, June 16, 2016


In Pueblo Viejo Margie and Holly hosted a Women's Health discussion. About 15 women attended, they asked a lot of good questions, and seemed very interested in the conversation. Abbe then met with the women to discuss sanitation for food preparation. In the afternoon the girls were presented another class on puberty.
Ann took pictures of all the kids for PenPal letters. Anita and Elizabeth worked on STEM lessons. This was Elizabeth's third day in the village and all day the little ones would shout "Miss Elizabeth" when she would walk in their classroom. We were all treated to a delicious lunch of chicken, rice and tortillas prepared in the new school kitchen. Some of the equipment in the kitchen was bought with donations from All Saints!

It was a crazy day in Santa Elena. The principal was back today ( turned out she had an abscess on her foot) which meant that she had to administer standardized testing to several classes. With multiple grades in each classroom, kids were in and out all day, needless to say the students were a bit wound up. Tessa had great discussions with girls of all ages and they enjoyed watching videos of music on her phone.
Debbie and Kathy made a large rosary with the students. Parents helped hang the rosary in the new outdoor seating area. This is where they will put the new picnic tables we are building.
Two tables are complete, two more are cut and ready to be assembled.

In Santa Cruz Barb, Chris and Roy got the doors painted. Flip flops were distributed and PenPal pictures were taken. Judy showed the children videos of her Youth Group students back home and then took videos of the children in Santa Cruz to share with them when she returns. What a great way to build community.

Quote of the day, while eating lunch in Pueblo Viejo, eating a chicken leg: This is the tiniest chicken in Belize.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


In Santa Elena today Ray, Shannon and Jack finally got the bolts they needed to put together the first picnic table. They borrowed tools from the local men and are working with one drill. They discovered that 2 x 4s in Belize are actually 2X4 inches, the men here seemed pretty surprised that in the U.S. ours are not.
In the school, the principal/intermediate grade teacher was absent for the second day which meant a whole class of students was basically unsupervised all day. Our team stepped right up to help keep the children occupied. Kristen had all the kids paint on a long canvas banner that will hang in the school. Dawn made chickens with the little ones and the kids loved their "shaky eggs" (especially the candy treat inside!)

In Santa Cruz Roy and Holly finished hanging two more doors and were able to start painting. Shannon and Anita worked on STEM lessons. The kids loved making kaleidoscopes and building bridges with Solo cups and Popsicle sticks. There was a contest to see whose bridge could hold the most small elephants. Bubbles, the puppet, made another appearance to help Abbe teach about health and water. At the last period of the day, all of the older kids ran down the road to the soccer field for their PE time. It was easily 90+ degrees and high humidity, we were all sweating like crazy just thinking about them running around in the sun!
Margie and Holly presented a class on puberty and adolescence to the Standard 4-6 girls (our 6th-8th grade). This went really great. The girls wrote questions down on notecards so they could ask them without being embarrassed. They were very interested in the diagrams, especially the uterus, created by our team artist, Kristen, that she fashioned out of a paper plate!

In Pueblo Viejo, Tessa had the kids doing a lot of acting like animals and exercise type activities. She asked the girls to teach her two of their favorite songs and in return taught them two songs. We heard the concert was amazing!
Chris was asked to work with the women who cook in the school feeding program. She didn't get much information before we left, and then Monday found out that the principal was expecting a formal presentation (no pressure there!). She put together lots of good info on food requirements and hygiene in the kitchen. She then worked with the ladies and baked sugar cookies and a large breakfast scramble. The ladies were very appreciate and asked if she could come back and stay for a month.

Ann, Alli, and Margie met with the family of our little friend, Amaya. She was born with no external ears and we are working with a doctor in SanAntonio, TX to have corrective surgery performed. This doctor is an expert on this complicated surgery and takes two pro bono cases a year. They made a video of Amaya and her home to send to the doctor. Our Dr. Margie, was able to explain some medical aspects to Amaya's parents. Amaya is an amazing eight year old. She made fast friends with a member of our January team, Christy, and thought Christy would be here this trip. She had hung a sign on her bedroom door that said, "Welcome Ann and Christy!" Alli was happy to step in and ate lunch at the little table Amaya had set, complete with fresh flowers. Please add your prayers that this all falls into place for her.

Quote of the day comes from Chris. After finding out that she was expected to give a presentation at the last minute, she got to school and the principal asked: Do you need a projector?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Posted a nice long blog about the day, but due to some internet issues at the Lodge, it did not post. Typical Belize, on to another plan.

A couple of highlights: children playing instruments while Judy played guitar in Pueblo Viejo, getting invited to lunch with the entire village, Debbie and Kathy making a huge rosary with students in Santa Cruz, Roy's life being changed with the discovery of Frog Togs cooling neck wraps, glitter germs, Bubbles the fuzzy blue puppet teaching about water and health, making kaleidoscopes, walking up the hill to the woodworkers shop to pick up doors made from local wood, sharks and Minnows, and the list goes on!

Quote of the day (as we tried to figure out what was for dinner): We're pretty sure this is NOT beef!

Anita Dutrow

Sunday, June 12, 2016


We arrived LATE last night, safe and sound after a long day of traveling.

Had some big storms last night, but woke up to a dry, hot day.

We split up into a couple of groups today. Tessa and Barb headed into town to catch up with their guide, Oliver, who took them out to snorkel off Snake Caye. They climbed the ranger tower, had a picnic lunch on the beach, and saw many interesting fish (lobsters, blow fish, sting rays, crabs and sea urchins).

Ann took a group out to mass in San Lucas. Mass was said by a priest from Texas who was here with another mission group. Twelve children received their First Holy Communion at mass. Afterwards, we were served our FIRST lunch, a delicious, steaming hot, spicy bowl of cahoun cabbage (just what you want when it's 90+ outside!)
From there we drove down the road to Corazon Creek. The high school graduation ceremony was today, so we had to wait around for an hour to catch up with some friends who were at the graduation.
We continued on down to Otoxha where we were served our SECOND lunch! This was a steaming hot, spicy bowl of chicken caldo! We drove up to the school and were able to get in the church to see the beautiful tile floor our team laid in January.
Margie and Holly needed to meet with the Peace Corps worker, Rachel, to get the details about a women's health clinic they will be presenting on Thursday. In typical Belize fashion, this meeting, which was scheduled for 2 pm, finally happened around 4:00.
We then drive back through San Lucas to and stopped in to visit with the Caal family to help them celebrate the graduation of their son, Juan Carlos. We were then offered our THIRD lunch, more chicken caldo!!
We made another stop to congratulate another graduate, Karen Chubb, and politely told the family we could NOT EAT any more hot, spicy food! The families were kind enough to send us down the road with caldo-to-go!

Captains Log- Hey families! It's Abbe, Anita needed to hop off and prepare for tomorrow's lessons so I am taking over. Today a small group headed out on a slightly different path. Side satchel, hiking books, and adventure map in hand we headed out to discover ancient Mayan ruins. Now I know what your thinking families, "Abbe, you all sound like Indiana Jones, this is ridiculous!" Perhaps, unless the first Mayan ruins you head to are the ACTUAL site that the real Crystal Skull was excavated in 1926! Talk about a start. We then headed into a second site of ruins, called NIM LI PUNIT, which translates to "big hat" (spoiler: we never found the big hat). The second ruins were amazing with a stunning view of the mountains, incredible stelae (big stone pillars that documented political events, village moments, and since they knew we were coming; my birthday!) and tombs! If you don't know me, here's a great way to. The first thing I did when I saw a tomb was think; "if I jump in, can I get out?" The answer is yes, considering I'm now here typing. After most of the group hopped in different tombs to take a photo, we realized that they were royal tombs that held the Maya elite. The only thing I can say to that is, the groups got good taste (but if this trip goes awry, it's 100% because we got the entire group cursed.) We ended our day making oceanside PB&J's while waiting to pick up our snorkeling friends and then headed back to the lodge.

At this moment we would like to add that after heading back to the lodge we watched the news and got word of the mass shooting that occurred in Orlando, FL. We are sending prayers all the way from Belize for the families and friends for the victims and are deeply saddened by such actions of hate.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Our Bags are Packed and We're Ready to Go!

Its hard to believe that by this time on Saturday we will be in Belize and well on our way down to Punta Gorda!

For the first time on a June trip, we will be traveling with a full team of 20. With just six returning volunteers, we are excited about welcoming a mostly new crew.  We had to make a last minute player substitution due to Father Don's injury and the need for Father Bob Suit to remain at All Saints.This is tougher than one would think because of the vaccinations required for travel. We are happy that a designated hitter stepped up into the spot!

We will be teaching in three villages, Santa Cruz, Pueblo Viejo and Santa Elena. It will be the first time we are visiting Santa Elena, we were invited by the principal who we know from another school.  We have a lot of fun, hands on activities planned for the children.  In addition to the usual health/hygiene lessons, we will present Art, Music, Theater, Religion and STEM lessons.  Our supplies include a bag of rocks for painting, Solo cups for building bridges and towers and almost 100 bags of homemade PlayDoh (that should be fun explaining in Customs!)  Friday will be a Games Day at each school with lots of favorites like Go Fish, bowling, Barrel of Monkeys, dominoes, tic-tac-toe relays and face painting!

In addition to teaching, we will work on construction projects in Santa Cruz and Santa Elena. In Santa Cruz, we have been asked to help replace wooden doors and window frames. We will be using local wood that the men in the village have harvested and prepared for use.  In Santa Elena we will be building and painting wooden picnic tables for an outdoor dining area in the school. If time permits we may be able to help paint San Francsico de Jeronimo Catholic Church at the end of the week.

As if this wasn't enough to keep us busy, we will also be presenting a Women's Health Clinic in Otoxha and addressing the continuing water issues in San Lucas and Otoxha.

Whew, I'm exhausted already!  Please pray for good weather, good health and safe travels for our volunteers.  We are so thankful for your prayers and your financial support of these projects.
Bantiox!  (that's THANK YOU in Ketchi Mayan)