What is Project Learn Belize?
After several trips to Belize, first as an observer and then as a participant, Dr. Jeff Dillon, S.J., a member of the USF School of Education faculty, began to see an exciting potential in Belize. Several avenues of opportunity might serve both the interests of the community of Dangriga and advance the lived expression of the Mission of the University of San Francisco. Due to the success of the previous Arrupe Immersion Program, sponsored by the University Ministry at the University of San Francisco, significant bonds were established between the members of the local community of Dangriga, the students, faculty and families of its Primary schools, and the University. While Dangriga is the third largest town in Belize, its relatively small population of 11,600 is such that efforts of Project Learn Belize not only impact USF participants, but promise significant contributions to the growth and development of the community. In October, 2007, Project Learn Belize received the endorsement of the President of the University of San Francisco and the Dean of the School of Education. Shortly after, a restricted gifts account fund for Project Learn Belize was established by the University of San Francisco, to be housed in the School of Education.
Project Learn Belize should be considered not so much a single program, but many ventures into which various members, inside and outside the USF community can enter. The unifying feature of these efforts is their “educational” nature, in the least restrictive sense. Education must address both hearts and minds; it must attend to all dimensions – social, cultural, health, economic, spiritual – that allow true learning to occur.
In addition to working with children, USF students and faculty immerse themselves in the culture of Belize, growing in solidarity and learning more about this culturally rich nation. Today, volunteers and students are sponsored by Project Learn Belize in a variety of capacities, including the Teacher-to-Teacher exchange, the Teacher Assistant Program, and the SONHP Health Advocacy Program through USF’s School of Nursing.
Project Learn Belize has grown since 2007, accepting donations from groups and individuals from England and the United States. People interested in contributing to this worthy cause may submit monetary donations through the University of San Francisco, or through volunteer efforts such as those at The Haverford School in Pennsylvania.
Learn more about Dangriga, Belize!
Dangriga, home to Sacred Heart Elementary School, is the third largest town in Belize. With a relatively small population of around 11,600 people, Dangriga is considered the cultural capital of Belize.
Belize is an English-speaking country in the Caribbean Basin, but you’ll also hear Kriol, French, Spanish, Chinese, and even a language spoken by the Garifuna people. Garifuna heritage runs throughout the country, but is particularly strong in Dangriga. The food, history, religion, and especially the music of the Garifuna people makes Dangriga a culturally rich town. Punta rock, a unique form of music that blends electronic with traditional sounds, is one of the trademarks of this vibrant city.
Despite its richness in culture and heritage, Belize and the town of Dangriga are still considered a “community in progress”. We invite you to learn more about Dangriga, to donate to Project Learn Belize, and to help this developing nation build a strong educational system.
See ya there!