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Enactus team works for economic progress in Belize
Thursday, February 13, 2014

A team of SUNY Fredonia’s Fred Global Enactus students traveled to Belize to begin their mission of empowering local artisans to improve their standard of living. The team formed strategic partnerships with the National Institute of Culture and History and the Rotary Club of Belize to help in this effort and support Belizean children’s education.

With the tourist trade the largest growing form of commerce in Belize, the team knew that by helping artisans and people dependent on tourists, they would be empowering families to increase their income and subsequently support their children’s education. They met artisans where tourism was greatest, which included the Mayan ruins area, San Pedro and Belize City. Once the team better understood the needs of the artisans’ families, they worked with local business leaders to begin to outline programs that would make a difference. “We learned also learned that Belizean artisans faced the same challenges local student and community artisans (in the U.S.) face in trying to establish a sustainable income from their passion in art,” commented student Nikoleta Vujovic.

The group became partners with Rotary Club of Belize City, which offered insight on safety needs of the artisans, workshop possibilities and the possibilities to form cooperatives that would aid with costs and exporting. The Rotary also emphasized the need to invest in the trades within Belize schools. “A lot of traveling takes place for these artisans, which creates a barrier for their children and their education. Many children eventually drop out of school due to lack of funds or absences when the children accompany their parents,” shared senior Chelsea Lydic, one of the traveling Enactus students.

With the assistance of guides Griffth and Sean Eusey, they formed a strategic partnership with the National Institute of Culture and History through Jackie Castillo, its development director for the Creative Arts. It is hoped that during future trips workshops could be held for artisans throughout the country with follow-up possibilities including the use of technology.

The team was inspired by the accomplishments of the SUNY Fredonia College of Education in Belize over the past eight years. “Many families do not have the means to pay tuition, buy uniforms and school supplies for their children,” reflected Nicki Sparks, an Enactus student who had traveled with education students last January.

While in Belize the team also field-tested another Enactus program, “Say it Forward,” in the local middle school. A Belize education team helped the Enactus group prepare for working with Belizean children. Team members Kelly Franck, Brandon Peishel and Jill Burgess worked with students to build their awareness and focus on random acts of kindness while building their public speaking comfort level. The team plans to implement “Say it Forward” this semester in Dunkirk schools after its great success in Belize.

After the team returned to SUNY Fredonia, the students were inspired to continue stimulating artisans and growing the economy in Belize. The team hopes to leverage their efforts with a planned return to Belize in January 2015.

Enactus is an international organization that has about 66,500 students participating on over 6,100 community outreach projects. The organization brings together students, academics and business leaders who are committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to enable progress around the world.

For more information about Enactus and the programs, interested persons should contact adviser Dr. Sue McNamara in the School of Business at mcnamars@fredonia.edu.

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