And it’s not just the corn….
Maize Harvest celebrations have been big in Belize for thousands of years… literally.
Ever since our ancient Maya forbearers have thanked the gods for great rain and all the other essentials to get that mainstay of life, corn to grow, harvest festivals have been a big thing.
But last weekend a new harvest festival celebrated a unique crop that was planted, maintained and harvested by 1000 mostly Belize City kids and this was one of our favourites harvests of all time…
The novelty was that these were 1000 city kids who were part of an innovative program that pulled them out of the daily grind of city life and exposure to crime and gang violence that unfortunately gets so much media attention in Belize City, and gave them an opportunity to spend the summer camping, working, and experiencing a different way of life.
Now, don’t get us wrong about cities and especially Belize City. They have their purposes, and all sorts of cool stuff happen there.
But there’s nothing like watching kids get out to the country and see nature do her thing to put a smile on this country boy’s face. And nothing like successfully bringing in a big crop of food to put a smile on those youthful farmers’ faces.
And that’s what happened the weekend ending October 15 2013.
These were kids who took up the invitation – and the challenge – to camp in the outside districts and be invited into the homes of the farming communities to learn about a whole new way of living.
It showed them that there’s not a lot wrong with fresh air, good hard work, raising food and working together, and it’s also cause for a celebration when the harvest comes in.
And that’s exactly what happened that last weekend ending the 15th when the innovative and by all looks productive youth outreach program, Harvest 4 Kids, aka H4K marked the end of their summer program with a big, well deserved celebration.
Harvest 4 Kids, we’re told, is an initiative where youths from Belize City are given an opportunity to spend their summer experiencing a new way of life in the country.
And this is a way of life with results. This year’s harvest saw 1000 kids and 15 combines – 4 more machines than last year, incidentally – harvesting 20 acres of corn. That’s a lot of tortillas.
According to Leah Perez, a moderator for Harvest 4 Kids,
“It’s amazing to see an idea come to life, and I am very proud of my husband. When you step back and see an event like this, it seems huge, but the reality is that it’s just a bunch of people doing good when they have an opportunity. It’s just normal people making the most of loving our kids, being examples, and taking the opportunity to teach them. We’re just a small part of what’s going on in city. There are plenty of teachers, pastors, and Sunday school teachers, and we’re just a small part of that picture.”
We think you’re being incredibly modest, Leah, so let’s hear from your husband, Alexander Perez, the director of Belize Camping Experience;
“This year, we had our summer camp, and we dealt with over 1,000 kids, and we couldn’t do it without the harvest from last year. And this year’s harvest is going towards our follow-up for this upcoming year, and also our summer camps.
But, what took place this year, there is a lot work. This year, we had 77 acres growing across the country of Belize, and it was the same concept from last year. They farmers give us the land and machinery, but we have to fundraise for the fertilizers, the seeds, the gas and everything that takes place for us plant the field. So, this year, we had more companies and individuals who supported us. They saw it last year; people got to see the vision, but Belize Camping Experience, this is just a start for us. There is more work to be done, and this that took place today is a celebration of all the acres right across the country, one event.
“At $150,000, the farmers of Central Belize made a major donation of time, energy, and usage of their valuable equipment just to see the young participants of the program get a special experience of how a quiet life of hard work can be both rewarding and exciting.
You’re not much better at taking credit, Alexander. In fact, you’re worse than your wife, just incredibly modest as well, so it looks like it’s up to us to say:
With all the doom and gloom we often read about, its uplifting to hear about people who put so much of themselves into improving the lives of others, and expecting nothing in return.
I just got another big warm glow again. About the fifth since writing this story.
And Mr and Mrs Perez aren’t the only heroes in this story – so many people devoted their time, expertise and money to get this program moving and actually working.
Take farmer John Carr, who donated use of his land and other things to H4K and had this to say;
“Whenever I do something for other people, it always multiplies and comes back, so somehow or the other, I win in this deal by helping others, particularly when I learn about the kids from the Southside of Belize City, who don’t get much help. So, if things can go in their directions, I am very happy about that.”
This is what Belize has always been about – hand wash hand, neighbours helping neighbours, people making us proud to be members of the human race.
It’s the quiet, unsung heroes who make Belize what it is, who give it that, yes, I’ll use the word, magic, that tourists always go on about. Sure, we’re blessed with an amazingly beautiful land and Caribbean seacoast, the Belize Great Barrier Reef and flora and fauna seemingly straight from the Garden of Eden (which, come to think of it, they are…)
But what you hear tourists always talk about, and what makes walking down any country, village or city road a joy, is something we take too much for granted – Belizeans, pure and simple.
Now, I feel bad because I know I’m not naming a lot of names that should be named. Please take some comfort in the fact that you’re appreciated where it really counts (even though we wish it could be in the media too).
Kimberly Conserve helped a lot by saying, “I want to thank Atlantic Bank, Circle R Products, Banana Bank Lodge, Caribbean Tire, RM, RB’s Multi-service, CT Parts, BelCar, Track, Westrac, Green Tropics, and Green Line Eagle Ranch.”
And, of course, those unheralded farmers of Central Belize….
So there you go, another good news story about good people doing good things. Just like listening to good music, it always puts you in a good frame of mind, makes the world a bit brighter…
And of course, if you ever hear of any uplifting stories, or anything at all Belize- worthy, my ears are always open, and you can always find me as usual at [email protected]. The cyber- door’s always open… and while we can’t publish everything, we definitely appreciate it all…