Before I visit a place I like to do a little research to find out about the locals, since it was the holidays I wanted to see if there was something Ben and I could do to volunteer our time or give back to the community. I came across a blog that mentioned how kids in Belize are in need of schools supplies, especially on the island since most things are hard to come by. When I looked more specifically at Caye Caulker I found the Ocean Academy.
Before 2009 there was no secondary school on the island, students had to travel to the San Pedro to finish their schooling but that was only if the families could afford the daily commute on the water taxi or if they had relatives the kids could stay with. In 2008 two women got together Heidi Curry (An American with Belizean residency) and Joni Miller (Canadian with Belizean residency) along with some locals to get the land, building and organize the school all within seven months. Caye Caulker Ocean Academy is a non-profit community high school who's "goal is not simply academics, but an overall commitment to appreciating, respecting and preserving our island's heritage so that future generations may know the beauty of Caye Caulker that exists today". This school teaches students the skills they need to maintain future careers on the island, anything from marine biology to salesperson along with the everyday life lessons a young adult would learn in any school. I met a student named Kyra who was in the culinary program and made very delicious blondies.
Once I researched the school I sent an email which is how I met Joni, she told me about the Christmas extravaganza fundraiser they were having and invited us to come. She also mentioned a few items we could bring if we were interested to donate to the school and fundraiser. Since we were limited on space I knew I couldn't do much but wanted to bring a something for the kids. We picked up some face paint, a few school supplies, Christmas crafts and other odds and ends to be give as prizes for the games. When Joni mentioned "Dollar store type items" I was all about it. Aside from the school both Joni and Heidi were very helpful in assisting us with finding new places to stay. In fact Heidi and her family own a hotel called Sea Dreams which is beautiful, of course they were mostly booked and despite her tireless efforts it didn't work out for us to stay there but in the future I would love to be her guest at the hotel.
We plan to visit the school again before we leave and maybe learn a little more from the students and staff but in the meantime if you want to learn more about what the Ocean Academy does please check out their website and if you are in a giving mood for this holiday season see the various ways you can donate to the school.