Ecotourism: ‘Giving Back’ While You Travel, History of Indian Church Development Project in Belize

Spurred in part by the relentless efforts of K. Pearce, a group of artists, architects, and archaeologists volunteered to work with the residents of the Indian Church Village in Belize to help them set up a local workshop, or cottage industry, to produce high-quality Maya artefacts that they could sell to tourists. Our efforts also include educational programs, including a library and literacy workshops, as well as a scholarship program. Hopefully, this will eventually provide an economic and educational base for the many people who live in this very rural village (a village that has no electricity until its school finishes for 13-year-olds!).

Indian Church Village Artisans, Belize (ICVA)

In the summer of 2000, we were awarded a small grant to teach crafts to the people of an Indian Church village in Belize and to help integrate the community with the Lamanai archaeological site. We’ve been working on this craft training project since that time. Over the past years, many art workshops have been conducted for the residents of Indian Church Village. We emphasize Mayan art, especially that of the Lamanai site, as well as the revival of ancient craft traditions. There are four groups now which include the blacksmiths, potters, stone carvers, and sewing group.

A community organization called Indian Church Village Artisans (ICVA) has now been formed and registered with the Government of Belize. We got a grant from the British High Commission to build a craft center in the village. The building was completed in 2003, and it is now necessary to continue to seek additional funding for tools and equipment, as well as funding to teach more classrooms. The project also secured funding through the efforts of K. Pierce of Rotary International and the Belize Social Investment Fund (SIF), which provided a reliable solar power system, classes, and supplies for the artisans.

Indian Church Village Library

Indian Church’s Village Library Belize Opened in July 2004, it is open 4 days a week and offers incentive summer reading programs, adult literacy courses, and a reliable place for students to study. Recent fund-raising efforts have resulted in securing an annual salary for the librarian, building a 10′ by 16′ addition, and adding shelving and other required furniture. It still needs financial support and by donating supplies. The librarian is trained through workshops by the Belize National Library Service (BNLS).

Indian Church Village Scholarship Program

There are approximately 9 students from Indian Church Village in Belize who have received a scholarship and will go to school after the age of 13 (which is the usual age to stop because there is no school nearby and it is very expensive to continue their education). A Canadian non-profit organization called SHARE has played a big role in this as well as K. Pierce’s private fundraising efforts. These students are required to travel at least one hour (about two hours) and need to stay in a safe house during the week in order to attend middle school and high school. The cost of this is out of reach for many of the residents of this remote small village.

Beyond touring an ecotourism company which promotes eco and heritage tourism opportunities partially financially supports this community enhancement project.

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