Belize trip to equip teachers with needed school supplies

Courtesy Photo
Dr. Joyce Nuner, assistant professor in family and consumer sciences, plays with preschoolers on previous trip to Belize.

By Caitlin Giddens

Most students’ spring break plans include sunbathing, relaxing and escaping from the classroom.

But for eight family and consumer science students, spring break will be an application of what they’ve learned in the classroom as the childhood development team travels to Belize for an academic mission.

The students will be partnering with Teachers for a Better Belize to improve teacher training in the rural Toledo district of Belize.

“We’ll be going to observe and help out with preschools,” Laredo senior Suzanna Frey said. “We get to see what the preschools do in Belize and how the teachers cope with a lack of resources. It’s just as much a learning experience for us as it will be for the teachers.”

The family and consumer science class began preparing for the Belize trip at the beginning of the year by holding weekly meetings and gathering school supplies.

“Teachers here can just run to Walmart to get supplies,” Frey said. “But in Belize, there’s a total lack of supplies. Even the kind of paper they use is more like newspaper.”

Teachers in this impoverished district earn about $6,000 per year, which makes purchasing supplies on their own difficult.

“We have so many things here in the U.S. that we don’t think to be resourceful,” said Dr. Joyce Nuner, assistant professor in family and consumer sciences and leader of the team. “But in rural parts of Belize, one marker can cost $2 at the local store. This is what challenges us to be creative when we go there. We have to figure out what we can bring that teachers can continue to use or find again.”

The team is holding a supply drive for the Belize trip. Donations, ranging from children’s books to crayons and construction paper, can be made in the first floor of the Mary Gibbs-Jones Family and Consumer Science Building.

“Of course, we need more material things,” Nuner said. “We all plan to bring an extra suitcase to bring supplies. But when we’re there, we also plan to encourage them. The teachers are excited for us to come, and we’re excited to see them.”

Alpha Delta Pi sorority and Michaels in Waco have donated supplies. But the team needs more help.

“Because the trip itself was so expensive, about $1,700, we wanted to get as many supplies as possible so that’s not an additional expense,” Nashville, Tenn., senior Sarah Hall Simmons said. “ADPi has donated paper and pens, which has been so helpful.”

While they are equipping teachers with more school supplies, the teams also hope to learn how to be more resourceful.

“Resourcefulness is just part of their culture in that area,” Simmons said. “We’re not looking down on them because they lack resources. In fact, we can learn how to be more resourceful from them.”

Teachers for a Better Belize began this mission in Belize because of the high poverty rates. The childhood development team will aid Teachers for a Better Belize in helping students escape poverty by increasing education.

“We’re not going there to ‘fix’ anything,” Nuner said. “We’re just working with [Teachers for a Better Belize] to improve these students’ lives.”

From scissors to pipe cleaners, students’ donation of common preschool supplies can help rescue kids from poverty.

“I was changed when I first went to Belize,” Nuner said. “It’s such a change of culture. It inspires you to make a difference in those schools, and then bring what you’ve learned to America.”

The majority of the students on the childhood development team are seniors, so the lessons they learn in the Toledo classrooms will help as they enter their career.

“I want to be a children’s minister,” Frey said.

“So this trip is a combination of my two passions. I can take my skills and what I’ve learned at school and use it for a greater purpose.”