Where in the world are we?

Where in the World are We?

10 March 2009

La Ruta Maya - The Belize River Challenge

Over this past long weekend (Baron Bliss Day), we participated in a major HIV/AIDS related outreach project. As head of the HIV committee at Peace Corps, Anthony, along with a number of other volunteers, helped to organize our first ever outreach event taking place during La Ruta Maya Cross-Country Canoe Race (Please see previous posting for more information and details regarding the event). During the various outreach sessions we worked alongside 7 other PCVS as well as members of PASMO Belize (an International NGO out of Guatemala City that focuses efforts on education and prevention regarding HIV/AIDS, and other STIs).  

  Mr. Stanley from Peace Corps helps pack up one of the vehicles in Cayo

We traveled by caravan, following the race in its entirety for many days (Anthony traveled from Thursday to Monday; Ginnie traveled from Saturday to Monday). During this time we stopped along the route at various places.

 Some kids hanging by the canoes after day 2 of the race

We set up shop at a couple of villages along the banks of the river, as well as more populated towns, before returning to Belize City on Monday, the final day of the race. At each of these stops, we worked in tandem with other PCVs as we all played games related to HIV, distributed pamphlets and condoms, and talked with huge numbers of Belizeans from all parts of the country.


The two of us in action

Our first event took place on Friday in San Ignacio at the starting line (Anthony was up at 4:45am and out at the riverbank by 5:15...Yikes!!! For those of you who know him well, you’ll certainly agree that this was quite a feat).


The starting line in San Ignacio was pretty hectic as all the paddlers attempted to pass the bridge and win the first of the prize money

From there we headed out to Spanish Lookout to do our outreach as well as watch our 8 Peace Corps teams pass by. Next it was on to Banana Bank (where the race ended for the day). In Banana Bank many of the paddlers camped out for the evening, cooking food and just chilling out as they prepared for Day 2 of racing.  


Two of the 8 Peace Corps teams as they passed by the Spanish Lookout Bridge

On Saturday we headed out for a few hours to St. Paul’s Bank, a small Creole village along the banks of the Belize River. We jammed our vehicles down the tightening road and eventually made it close enough to the bank to unload our things and set up.


These are some shots of our tent as we did outreach in Burrell Boom.  The T-Shirts hanging along the sides were created by all different people and each was personally inscribed with a message about domestic violence and/or HIV/AIDS

St. Paul’s Bank was a great place to watch the paddlers as they passed, although there were a couple of rough spots with some minor rapids that quickly threw people overboard and sunk boats.


The campsite at Banana Bank - Day One

Next we headed further east toward Bermudian Landing. When we reached this area, there were people everywhere. There was loud music, BBQ, and vendors selling everything from choco-bananas to fried plantain to hamburgers and hotdogs to Beans and Rice and Rice and Beans.

Bermudian Landing - Day Two 

 Kids playing games and learning about HIV/AIDS at the village of St. Paul's Bank

We spent a few hours here working the crowd and playing games with people who came by the table. Around four o’clock or so, the first of now only six remaining PC teams began arriving. Some of us assisted the paddlers as they arrived on land while others went off to help set up tents for camp that evening, and then ended at Bermudian Landing.  

On Sunday we began the day’s activities with a short stop at Grace Bank before heading out to Burrell Boom (the ending spot for the day). Burrell Boom was a lot like the crazy atmosphere we all witnessed at Bermudian Landing. At Boom we had the biggest success so far, in terms of our outreach activities. We reached approximately 200 people in just over four hours (quite a feat by Belize standards).


The craziness of Day 3 - Burrell Boom; Lots of boats, food, people, and loud music

During our time in Burrell Boom, we were graced with the presence of not only our Programming and Training Officer, but our Administrative Officer, Training Director, and Country Director. It was really great to see all of these senior staff members out in the field supporting and encouraging all of us (paddlers, support teams, and outreach workers). The country director also brought by a visitor from Washington D.C. (current head of Obama's Whitehouse transition team) who happened to be in Belize learning more about different Peace Corps countries. While they were all in Burrell Boom, the country director and his wife invited both of us for lunch, which we have to admit, was pretty awesome.  


Back in Belize City: A view of the peolple on the BELCAN Bridge as they awaited racers

Monday was the final day of the race and it was sort of bittersweet as we packed our things and headed toward the finish line in Belize City. The carnival atmosphere returned as we arrived at the river to await rowers on their final leg of the race. This spot turned out to be the busiest of all and after only a few hours we had provided outreach to almost 200 people.

 Two girls just hanging out by our table

It was a great experience and we all felt fortunate to have had the wonderful opportunity to be involved in such an event.  


Anthony and Hope display the latest in condoms (both for males and females) 


The whole goup of us (PASMO and PC) pose for a photo at the end of a long week;  Anthony finds yet another reason to go climbing