History of the Peace Corps in Belize

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History of the Peace Corps
Since 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, more than 182,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 138 countries all over the globe.

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Since the first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Belize in 1962, more than 1,600 have served in the country. They have worked in education, alternative agriculture, health, conservation, and small business development. In the early years of Peace Corps/Belize, most Volunteers worked with the Ministry of Education to expand and diversify the secondary school system in rural areas. Since the early 1990s, Volunteers have focused their educational efforts on teacher training, curriculum development, HIV/AIDS awareness, and at-risk youth. They have also worked in rural community development, focusing on ecotourism, alternative agriculture, and environmental education.

History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Belize

Peace Corps/Belize works in several key areas, including education, youth development, rural community development and environmental conservation. The objective of our programming is not to teach the people of Belize American values or an American sense of efficiency, but to enable them to help themselves within their own cultural framework.

The education project engages Volunteers in providing training and support to teachers in the primary school system. Literacy rates in many Belizean communities are low.

Volunteers provide innovative leadership and training for teachers to strengthen reading instruction and to increase the reading skills of targeted students in the first four years of primary school. Volunteers also assist schools in setting up school and community libraries. This is complemented by a national adult literacy program in which Peace Corps Volunteers are collaborating with the Adult and Continuing Education Department of the Ministry of Education. Special education Volunteers are providing training for teachers in methodologies used to teach learning-impaired children. These teachers learn about materials development and classroom-management as well as methods for teaching students who are hearing-impaired or have vision and reading problems.

Youth for the Future was established by the Government of Belize in 2002 to increase efforts to systematically address the challenges facing young people. Youth development Volunteers are helping the government improve and expand the programs and services to the youth in Belize. The five main program theme areas are: leadership and governance; productivity and volunteerism; job creation and enterprise development; conflict resolution and violence reduction; and HIV/AIDS education and prevention.

Youth Volunteers focus on a holistic approach to youth development, paying particular attention to life-skills education; youth employment and entrepreneurship; and youth health, including the prevention of sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs) and HIV/AIDS.

Recently, Peace Corps Volunteers have worked with the National 4-H and Youth Development Center on a new program that will establish 4-H youth groups in rural communities throughout Belize. In the coming years, Volunteers will play an important role in creating new 4-H groups, developing programming for these youth, and training key community members in managing the clubs for the future.

HIV/AIDS education and prevention are very important Volunteer activities because Belize has the highest rate of HIV/AIDs infection in Central America. The HIV/AIDS awareness component of the youth development project was developed in coordination with the National AIDS Commission and contributes significantly to the solution of this growing problem. Volunteers assigned to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the Ministry of Health target women and youth through peer education and behavior-change strategies, mass media campaigns, training workshops, and one-on-one education. Volunteers have also begun working with people living with HIV/AIDS.

Community education by Volunteers includes literacy (both for adults and school-aged children), substitute teaching, tutoring, teacher training, after-school programs, school gardens, community projects, and small business development. Volunteers need to be versatile, able to switch back and forth between formal and informal settings.

The rural community development project works in three main areas: 1) organizational strengthening and capacity building; 2) environmental education and protected areas management; and 3) ecotourism, sustainable livelihoods, and small business development. The goal of the project is to enable rural Belizeans to improve their quality of life in a community-led, sustainable manner. Some Volunteers focus on strengthening local organizations and their capacity to organize, analyze, plan and to act to improve their communities. Others advocate and organize programs that manage natural resources and protect biodiversity in ways that accrue benefits to community members. Still others aid communities by diversifying and generating new sources of family and village-level income through a holistic approach to environmentally sound development at the village level.

Volunteers use participatory techniques that allow community members to assess their needs and strengths. These techniques strengthen the capacity of community groups and develop their planning skills. Volunteers work with a wide range of groups—adult, women’s groups, village councils, youth groups—to help strengthen and sustain their abilities to effectively manage natural resources while improving village incomes.

Volunteers help communities to improve their understanding of the importance of maintaining their environment in a sustainable manner to improve their quality of life. Environmental outreach activities let Volunteers work both in a formal school environment educating teachers and children, and informally throughout the community.

Volunteers help communities learn and adopt skills that will help them diversify and increase income for their families. They facilitate family-level needs assessments and provide support for prioritizing family needs, identifying solutions, planning, and acting upon them. They also provide training in small business planning, bookkeeping, basic accounting, and marketing.

The rural community development approach works at the grassroots level, supporting initiatives that empower rural populations to manage their own development. As such, many Volunteers respond to unique community-identified needs in their villages, including water and sanitation projects, health education, nutrition, agricultural diversification, and small business marketing.

Assignment History

Sector Assignment Beg. Yr End. Yr
Agriculture Ag Economics 1985 2002
Ag Education 1979 1997
Ag Extension 1980 2003
Animal Husband 1971 1981
Animal Husband Lg 1974 1988
Apiculture 1973 1991
Crop Extension 1962 1990
Farm Mechanics 1983 1994
Fisheries Marine 1987 1996
Soil Science 1987 1987
Business Accounting 1984 1984
Archictecture 1982 1982
Business Advising 1970 2007
Business Development 2007 2007
Computer Science 2001 2003
Cooperatives 1983 1987
NGO Advising 1997 2007
Urban and Regional Planning 1986 1987
Crisis Corps Crisis Corps 1994 2002
Education Bus. Ed/Sectl Skl 1982 1990
English Teacher 1982 1994
English Teacher Trainer 1988 1993
Fisheries Fresh 1984 1998
Gen. Construction 1985 2004
Home Economics 1983 1989
Industrial Arts 1969 1995
Library Science 1982 1996
Literacy Ed. 1985 1985
Phys. Ed/Youth Wk 1981 1995
Prim-Ed/Teach Trn 1981 2007
Secondary-Ed Math 1981 1990
Secondary-Ed Sci. 1981 1991
Special Ed/Deaf 1995 1995
Special Ed/Gen. 1983 2007
Univ. English Teaching 1984 1984
Voc. Trainer 1983 1994
Environment Comm Forestry Ext 1994 1994
Environmental Ed. 1992 2007
Forestry 1988 2001
Protected Areas Management 1986 2004
Health Envir. and Water Resource 1972 1997
Health Degreed 1981 2006
Health Extension 1981 1997
Home Econ/Ext. 1980 1984
Hygiene Ed/Sanitation 1989 2007
Med. Technician 1979 1985
Nursing 1982 1984
Master's International Masters Internationalist 1990 1999
Other Flexible App 1974 1986
Unique Skill 1978 1997
UNV United Nations Volunteer 1983 1996
Youth and Community Development Appropriate Tech. 1983 1986
Commun. Serv/Deg. 1981 2007
Mechanics 1982 1995
Road Const/Engin. 1982 1985
Rural Youth Dev. 1980 1985
Youth Development 1996 2007