SUNY Fredonia Enactus team takes on Belize

A small team from SUNY Fredonia’s Fred Global Enactus group traveled to Belize to begin its mission of helping local artisans to increase their standard of living.

The team was inspired by the work that the SUNY Fredonia Education department has accomplished over the past eight years working with school systems in Belize.

“Many families do not have the means to pay tuition, buy uniforms and school supplies for their children,” said Nicole Sparks, an Enactus student who had traveled with the education students the previous January.

Because the tourist trade is the largest growing industry in Belize, the Enactus team knew that by helping artisans and people dependent on tourists, they could help families increase their incomes helping, them support their children’s education.

Building upon the Enactus’ existing efforts to empower local artisans, a team was sent on a weeklong fact-finding mission. This mission took place in January and involved meeting artisans where tourism was greatest, including the Mayan, San Pedro and in Belize City.

“A lot of traveling takes place for these artisans, which creates a barrier for their children and their education. Many children eventually drop out of school due to lack of funds or absences when the children accompany their parents,” said Chelsea Lydic, one of the traveling Enactus students.

Once the team better understood the needs of artisans’ families, it worked with local business leaders to begin to outline programs that would make a difference.

The Rotary Club of Belize City became essential partners offering insight about safety needs of the artisans, workshop possibilities and the possibilities of assisting artisans to form cooperatives to help with costs and exporting. The Rotary, committed to helping local schools in Belize City, also emphasized the need to invest in the trades within their schools.

Through connections made by the group’s guides, Griffth and Sean Eusey, the Enactus team met with and formed a strategic partnership with The National Institute of Culture and History. The Business Development Director for the Creative Arts, Jackie Castillo, outlined who the Enactus team could help with workshops for artisans throughout the country on subsequent trips with follow up possibilities through the use of technology.

The team returned inspired to make a difference for the artisans in Belize.

“We also learned that Belizean artisans faced the same challenges local student and community artisans face in trying to establish a sustainable income from their passion for art,” Nikoleta Vujovic said.

The team hopes to incorporate the work for local artisans with a planned return to Belize next January.

An unexpected insight from the trip was just how similar business and education can be between a third world country like Belize and the United States.

Dr. Janeil Rey and Dr. Mike Jabot, who travel annually for the Friends across the Border education program in Belize, were guideposts for the team’s preparation and support in Belize.

While in Belize the team also took the opportunity to field test another Enactus program, Say it Forward, in the local middle school.

Estelle Crino and the education team helped the Enactus group prepare for working with Belizean children. Kelly Franck, Brandon Peishel and Jill Burgess worked with students to build awareness and focus on random acts of kindness while increasing comfort level for them in public speaking.

The Say it Forward team is implementing the program this semester in Dunkirk Schools, having learned that children are similar across the globe.

For more information about Enactus, contact Dr. Sue McNamara susan.mcnamara@fredonia.edu.