Lydia Wei - General Care Projects in Belize
My name is Wei Li, and I also go by Lydia. When I decided to volunteer in Belize, I was a student, majoring in Early Childhood Education at Indiana University in Bloomington. Teaching young children is a passion in my life.
My first trip with Project Abroad happened in the summer of 2015, and I spent a month in Sri Lanka teaching in the Montessori Preschool. I then decided to visit Belize and volunteer for three weeks at the Care Project.
My arrival in Belize
Before coming to Belize, the Project Abroad staff kindly sent me an e-mail regarding my transit from Belize City to San Pedro. At the time, there were mainly two ways to the island: water taxi ($15 US) or a small but fast airplane (there were two companies that flew to San Pedro; I travelled with Tropic Air which cost me about $90 US).
After a 15-minute flight, I finally arrived at San Pedro. The Projects Abroad staff member was already waiting for me in a golf-cart - yes, a golf-cart. Soon you too will realize that every place that you enjoy or want to go to in Belize is in a walking distance!
I spent my first two weeks at a placement that is dedicated to helping children with special needs. Each volunteer was paired up with one child to maintain a stable and reliable support structure. The best part of this placement was the parade on the last day; everyone was invited to sit on golf-carts and advocate for the equal treatment of all the special needs children.
The second part of my placement was at an alternative preschool programme hosted by the San Pedro Public Library. It was a programme offering free early childhood education for families and children who could not afford the cost of preschool. The best part of this placement was that I had the freedom to plan my very own classes, so that meant we spent a lot of class time on the beach, exploring nature to fulfil the purpose of playful learning.
My overall experience
Although I only spent three weeks in Belize, I fell in love with this amazing country. It is a place where you can watch a movie under stars. It is a place where you feel so included because people are willing to stop you on the street, offering you a free ride. It is also a place where you can work hard to earn the smiles of the children, and in return, you get to enjoy the breathtaking view of the Caribbean Sea in your free time. I had one of the best teaching and travelling experiences in Belize, and I would love to go back in the future!
My top tips for volunteering in Belize:
- Bring bug repellent and sunscreen!
- Try the papaya smoothie if you are in San Pedro
- Talk to people - you will be surprised by how little you know
- Go explore, because "the world is old but ever new".
- Be patient - some children only speak Spanish, but they will feel it when you give them enough care and support!