Belize

Provides educational services and support to benefit children, women, communities and the environment in the southern Toledo District of Belize

Books to Kids in Toledo

In 2016 Books to Kids began the first distribution of slim readers to children in the Toledo District. This partnership between Plenty Belize and Plenty International builds upon the Books to Kids project run by Plenty International in Tennessee and Louisiana, USA. We provide books to children to own and have in their homes, approximately monthly, with the goal of the children building a small library of 10 or more books to read, trade, and enjoy.

Plenty Belize uses the help of board members, staff, and local volunteers to distribute the books, making this project efficient on a low budget. We have been distributing at:

  • Jacintoville
  • Santa Anna
  • Crique Sarco
  • Barranco
  • Punta Gorda Library After School Program
  • University of Belize Reading Club
  • Eldridge
  • Jalacte
  • Graham Creek

The children at each site choose their own book from those provided (there are always extra to choose from), and the site coordinator ensures that a record is kept of the children and their book choices. We also keep track of the reading level (below, average, above) as reported by the teachers. The coordinators often enter into discussions with the students about the books they have read, encouraging reading and literacy.

Plenty Belize looks forward to continuing this project for the next several years!

 

Sustainable Solar Energy in Santa Elena

Started April 2017 and ongoing (anticipated end date April 2019)

Collaborators

  • Plenty Belize
  • Barefoot College
  • Caribbean Community Climate Change Center
  • Ya’axche Conservation Trust
  • Maya Mountain Research Farm
  • Ministry of Rural Development
  • Ministry of Energy
  • Santa Elena Village

Funders

  • GEF SGP
  • Barefoot College
  • Government of India
  • Government of Belize
  • Plenty International

Project Goal

To promote the demonstration, development and transfer of low carbon technologies at the community level, by empowering Santa Elena to reduce GHG emissions by capacity-building and installation of renewable and sustainable energy systems.

Successes and Accomplishments

  • Two women from Santa Elena trained as Barefoot Solar Engineer, ie a solar technician who builds/solders charge controllers and solar lanterns.
  • The engineers are women
  • The engineers are Mayan from a remote village in Toledo
  • The engineers are not formally educated at secondary or tertiary level
  • Santa Teresa has a Solar Board that reports to Ministry of Rural Development that seeks to sustain the systems into the future.

Good Practices

  • Female Solar Engineer in Village
  • Solar Power Board puts control in the village
  • Steering Committee Meetings open to the village
  • Training both in India and in Belize
  • Rural Development assists solar Board

 

Adapting Food Security to Climate Change in Jalacte

Start date October 2018; Anticipated Completion October 2019

Activities and Intended Results

  • Promote Equity, Sustainability and Resilience to Climate Change with regards to Food Security
  • Three covered agricultural structures producing food, one managed by the women and older youth of village, two managed by school youth and PTA. 25% of the production from each structure will be sold to provide funds for maintenance. The women and youth will keep 50% of their production and donate 25% to the school feeding program. The school youth and PTA will use 25% of their production for incentives and donate 50% to the school feeding program. Thus the covered agriculture structures are maintained, livelihoods are enhanced, and food security for the children in the school is greatly improved.
  • Two distinct agro-foresty areas are set up with short, medium and long term plantings so as to enhance livelihoods and enhance food security while adapting to and mitigating climate change
  • Water for irrigation and chickens will be readily available through the combination of solar water pumping from the river, water re-use, and rainwater collection.
  • Knowledge and Attitudes with regards to gender and climate change are enhanced amongst the participants.

Collaborators

  • Plenty Belize
  • Ministry of Agriculture
  • Ministry of Education
  • Ministry of Rural Development
  • Jalacte PTA, School, and Village
  • Jalacte Women’s Group
  • Regeneration Belize
  • Ya’axche Conservation Trust

Funders

  • GEF SGP
  • Government of Belize
  • Plenty International

Plenty Belize

Working together for the sustainable development of the people, communities, and environment of Toledo, Belize

Plenty Belize is a registered Belizean NGO with its office in the village of Jacintoville, Toledo District, Belize. Founded in 1997, Plenty Belize has a history of working hand in hand with other local groups to address local needs in a sustainable manner. Plenty Belize has acted both as a service provider within projects spearheaded by other organizations and as a project manager. Plenty Belize manages projects in agriculture, school gardens, health, nutrition, solar energy, women’s development, micro-enterprise and education, in close liaison with local government and non-governmental agencies.

Plenty Belize operates independently as a sister organization to Plenty International, with similar values and purposes. Since 1990 Plenty International staff and volunteers have contributed financial, technical and material support to the work of Plenty Belize.

The Toledo District in southern Belize is home to indigenous Mopan and Kek’chi Maya (who comprise about 65% of the district’s 33,000 plus residents), Garifuna, Creole, Mestizo, and East Indian populations. Levels of education, health, literacy, infrastructure and income in this district are consistently at the bottom of national averages. With 79% of residents living below the poverty line, the Toledo District ranks among the poorest in the western hemisphere. With over 50 villages, the population is rurally based and relies greatly on subsistence slash and burn style agriculture. Malnutrition is a persistent problem in Toledo with 45% of children showing signs of growth retardation. Hunger is not a problem in Toledo, as there is always something available to eat, even if it does not provide balanced nutrition.

Infrastructure in Toledo is the lowest in the nation, with many about 16 villages having no access to the electricity grid, and many not having potable water or decent sanitation facilities.

The Toledo District is also blessed with an abundance of natural resources. With 165 – 190 inches of rainfall each year, the climate is perfect for the beautiful rainforest that covers our land. The Caribbean Sea / Gulf of Honduras lies off our coast, as we lie near the southernmost point of the second longest barrier reef in the world.

Areas of focus

  • Sustainable development of energy, water, and food resources
  • Sanitation, Nutrition, and Health Education
  • Economic initiatives such as agro-business and micro-enterprise development
  • Environmental Awareness and Adaptation to Global Climate Change
  • Relevant Public Education
  • Inclusion of Women, Youths, and Persons with Disabilities in the development of their communities and beyond
  • Respect for the culture of the many indigenous peoples of the area.

Staff

Plenty Belize currently has an Executive Director/Programs Manager, and an Office and Accounts Manager; our Board is an active board assisting our work in many ways. We also have occasional local and international volunteers.

Executive Director/Programs Manager Mark Miller was born in the US but is now a permanent resident of Belize, living in the village of Jacintoville, about 8 miles outside of PG town. Mark holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Pollution Control, a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering, and formerly held a certificate in secondary education.

Office and Accounts Manager Randine Williams was born and raised and continues to live in the village of Jacintoville, Toledo.  Randine earned her Associate degree from the University of Belize.

Board of Directors

  • Chairwoman Ms. Dawn Dean, Entrepreneur and Agriculture specialist
  • Vice Chairman Mr. Augustine Lara, Principal at Santa Ana Government School, Toledo District
  • Treasurer Ms. Zipporah Supaul, Teacher and Head of Business Department at Toledo Community College
  • Secretary Mr. Jack Nightingale, Entrepreneur, Toledo District
  • Ms. Sherilee Woodye, Teacher at Indian Creek Primary School
  • Mr. Ignatius “Gomier” Longville, Owner of Gomier’s Health Food Restaurant
  • Ms. Cordelia Forman, Rural Community Development Officer for Toledo West for the Government of Belize
  • Mr Abib Palma, Entrepreneur and Agriculture specialist

Contact

Plenty Belize
PO Box 72
Punta Gorda Town
Belize
Central America

(501) 664 – 5024

solarbelize@gmail.com

2014 Fall/Winter Bulletin

November 2014

Dear Friends of Plenty,

  You’ve probably heard by now that Plenty’s founder and mentor, Stephen Gaskin passed away on July first of this year, right before our annual Plenty Board meeting. He hadn’t been directly involved with Plenty over the past few years but, without his original inspiration and vision, Plenty would not have been born. I first met him in 1968 in a church basement in San Francisco where he was holding meetings with a couple of hundred hippies on Thursday nights. Over the course of the following year these meetings grew to about 1,500 and they filled a local rock and roll hall, the Family Dog, on Monday Nights. Stephen would sit on a low wooden platform, talking without a microphone and lead a conversation related to the things we were all thinking about in those days like spirit and energy, war and peace and what could we young hippies do in a country and a world that we believed desperately needed some kind of spiritual awakening. We viewed Monday Night Class as the Continental Congress for the Second American Revolution, a revolution that would be nonviolent and motivated by love, but a real revolution in the sense that we wanted to live very differently based on our discoveries of who we were and what it means to be human. Of course, the late sixties and early seventies were traumatic times with the ever-present specter of an insane war in Vietnam and the assassinations of icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Then came the shooting of four students at Kent State by the National Guard on May 4, 1970.  That was on a Monday and that night, when we were gathered in the Family Dog as usual, the voices for arming ourselves and taking it to the streets were especially loud and insistent. It truly felt like the country was on the brink of a generational civil war and Stephen played a pivotal role as a voice for peace, pointing out that, in the first place, we couldn’t win a shooting war and, most importantly, our revolution would be rendered worse than meaningless, just another sorry chapter in the immensely stupid and self-destructive cycle of violence that seemed to have forever plagued our species.

On October 12 of that year, about 200 of us headed out across America with Stephen who had been invited on a speaking tour at universities and churches and community centers and town halls. We had moved into school buses fitted out with beds and kitchens and wood stoves. The first gig was in Minneapolis. We went to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Nashville, Boulder, CO and dozens of cities and towns in between, finally ending up back in San Francisco with the understanding that it was time to put our money where our mouth was.

The first step was to make a community where we could live together. We decided to head to Tennessee, to get away from the political noise on both coasts and where we might be able to afford land. We got lucky and found a thousand acre farm for $70/acre. In the beginning we were just learning how to farm and feed ourselves and deliver babies and deal with no running water and no electricity. We were very poor but we still felt like we had more than enough to be able to share. Because we had always been committed to effecting change in the world, the next natural step was to start Plenty. Through these early years of the Farm and Plenty, when we were pretty green and wet behind the ears and learning how to get along with each other (by 1974 when we founded Plenty there were about 600 of us) Stephen was an essential guide and I don’t think we could have made it without him. The rest is history and we actually have a book in the works (“The Roots of Plenty”) that will be out before year-end. On top of that, the Farm and Plenty are on display in the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville as part of an Intentional Communities of Tennessee exhibit until the end of November. Imagine that.

I’d like to sign off with love and a big thank you to Stephen for his courage, vision and perseverance. I want to make a special plea for our friends and colleagues, Bisi and Mahmoud Iderabdullah who manage Imani House International, which has a clinic that’s on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Two of their staff have died from the disease. They need all the help we can give them. The new Bulletin is full of stories of people who inspire. They’re all on the front lines of the global campaign to make things better, to find and create solutions and to take care of others. They deserve our help.

With thanks to you from all of us at Plenty,

Peter Schweitzer

To view the Fall/Winter 2014 Plenty Bulletin simply click this link:
Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

November 2014

Dear Friends of Plenty,

  You’ve probably heard by now that Plenty’s founder and mentor, Stephen Gaskin passed away on July first of this year, right before our annual Plenty Board meeting. He hadn’t been directly involved with Plenty over the past few years but, without his original inspiration and vision, Plenty would not have been born. I first met him in 1968 in a church basement in San Francisco where he was holding meetings with a couple of hundred hippies on Thursday nights. Over the course of the following year these meetings grew to about 1,500 and they filled a local rock and roll hall, the Family Dog, on Monday Nights. Stephen would sit on a low wooden platform, talking without a microphone and lead a conversation related to the things we were all thinking about in those days like spirit and energy, war and peace and what could we young hippies do in a country and a world that we believed desperately needed some kind of spiritual awakening. We viewed Monday Night Class as the Continental Congress for the Second American Revolution, a revolution that would be nonviolent and motivated by love, but a real revolution in the sense that we wanted to live very differently based on our discoveries of who we were and what it means to be human. Of course, the late sixties and early seventies were traumatic times with the ever-present specter of an insane war in Vietnam and the assassinations of icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Then came the shooting of four students at Kent State by the National Guard on May 4, 1970.  That was on a Monday and that night, when we were gathered in the Family Dog as usual, the voices for arming ourselves and taking it to the streets were especially loud and insistent. It truly felt like the country was on the brink of a generational civil war and Stephen played a pivotal role as a voice for peace, pointing out that, in the first place, we couldn’t win a shooting war and, most importantly, our revolution would be rendered worse than meaningless, just another sorry chapter in the immensely stupid and self-destructive cycle of violence that seemed to have forever plagued our species.

On October 12 of that year, about 200 of us headed out across America with Stephen who had been invited on a speaking tour at universities and churches and community centers and town halls. We had moved into school buses fitted out with beds and kitchens and wood stoves. The first gig was in Minneapolis. We went to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Nashville, Boulder, CO and dozens of cities and towns in between, finally ending up back in San Francisco with the understanding that it was time to put our money where our mouth was.

The first step was to make a community where we could live together. We decided to head to Tennessee, to get away from the political noise on both coasts and where we might be able to afford land. We got lucky and found a thousand acre farm for $70/acre. In the beginning we were just learning how to farm and feed ourselves and deliver babies and deal with no running water and no electricity. We were very poor but we still felt like we had more than enough to be able to share. Because we had always been committed to effecting change in the world, the next natural step was to start Plenty. Through these early years of the Farm and Plenty, when we were pretty green and wet behind the ears and learning how to get along with each other (by 1974 when we founded Plenty there were about 600 of us) Stephen was an essential guide and I don’t think we could have made it without him. The rest is history and we actually have a book in the works (“The Roots of Plenty”) that will be out before year-end. On top of that, the Farm and Plenty are on display in the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville as part of an Intentional Communities of Tennessee exhibit until the end of November. Imagine that.

I’d like to sign off with love and a big thank you to Stephen for his courage, vision and perseverance. I want to make a special plea for our friends and colleagues, Bisi and Mahmoud Iderabdullah who manage Imani House International, which has a clinic that’s on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Two of their staff have died from the disease. They need all the help we can give them. The new Bulletin is full of stories of people who inspire. They’re all on the front lines of the global campaign to make things better, to find and create solutions and to take care of others. They deserve our help.

With thanks to you from all of us at Plenty,

Peter Schweitzer

To view the Fall/Winter 2014 Plenty Bulletin simply click this link:
Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

Plenty Belize

Plenty Belize
The San Vicente Food Fair by Kate Ford

As an intern with Plenty Belize for the past two months, I recently participated in the San Vicente RC School Food Fair, which celebrated their graduation from Plenty’s Garden-based Agriculture for Toledo’s
Environment (GATE) Program.

After travelling roughly two hours to the last village along the San Antonio Highway, minutes from the
Guatemalan border, we arrived in San Vicente with two truckloads of food and people. There local cooks, a chef from Punta Gorda, interns and volunteers came together to create a huge feast for roughly 250 people. The afternoon’s menu included a bean stew with roots; stir-fried rice; sauteed chaya, callaloo and cabbage; and a Mayan bean and masa dish called chep.
Plenty congratulated San Vicente RC School for developing and maintaining a school garden with the GATE program. GATE teaches children about healthy eating and securing food, skills vital to food security domestically. The Belizean population is facing alarming health statistics: roughly 70% of the adult population is overweight or obese and 16% have type II diabetes. Eating a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, which GATE promotes, is an important step in addressing these health conditions. Over 20 schools in the Toledo District are “graduating” from GATE this year.

We had an awesome day celebrating the achievements in agricultural education in San Vicente while feasting on excellent healthy food.
Thanks to all for supporting Plenty Belize.

Plenty Belize

Children in 48 villages live healthier because of the school gardens, youth gardens at home, school water systems and school lunch programs supported by Plenty Belize’s GATE program. Volunteer cooks at five primary schools learned ways to prepare balanced nutritious meals and soy foods, led by master cook Ignatius Gomier Longville and funded by our friends at A Well Fed World. All district schools were provided a healthy foods cookbook produced by Plenty Belize and the Toledo School Feeding program.

A pilot solar power project in San Jose village provides clean energy to 19 buildings including the school that serves over 200 children via its 6.58 KW solar array.

Fifteen fishing families developed micro businesses to diversify their income and decrease the pressure on fragile marine resources. The families benefitted from eight business training courses, and a mix of grants and loans to start or improve their business operations.

The 20 women members of “Ambitious Women of Punta Gorda” learned food canning and home gardening to begin a small salsa making operation to earn income.

The “Protecting Teenage Mothers” project provided workshops on parenting skills, nutrition education, healthy relationships, conflict resolution domestic violence, and other relevant topics for 22 young women.

Plenty Belize

by Mark Miller, Executive Director

Plenty Belize began our single largest project to date in August of 2011, an EU funded solar project for San Jose Village with a Mayan population of more than 1,000. The total cost of the project is $200,000 with $187,000 from the European Union (EU) and $10,250 coming from Plenty and $11,000 coming from the community (cash and labor). This project is now functional, with 19 buildings getting power from the 6,540W centralized solar system (4 public buildings: a school, community building, water board office, and health post) plus 15 private residences, including one that also serves as a shop. The recently formed village electricity board is responsible for collecting payments for the power and maintaining the system. We believe this pilot project to be among the first of its kind in the Americas.

Our GATE Program continues as our Flagship, helping schools with gardens, kitchens, water systems, and teacher education. There are now 45 schools in GATE (an increase of 5 over last year), of which 23 have graduated, meaning they no longer receive regular support but are simply monitored by Plenty staff. We have more schools that have requested to start a school garden program, and we are adding them to GATE this fall. We are on track to assist all 50 schools in Toledo by 2014. There are now 23 schools with lunch programs.