Get ready for Belize: Indigenous Youth Movements with Community Engagement Training. Get to know your program team, learn about the Toledo District and Maya peoples in Belize and develop your skills in community engagement, project planning and assessment.
Training will take scheduled according to participant availability between June 10-18, including Friday, June 14, 5-10pm at Meet at the Bell Tower.
Land in the hot, sunny weather of Belize City and enjoy a beautiful four-hour drive south to the rural village of Laguna in Toledo District. Upon arrival, we'll have a delicious local dinner in the home of a Q'eqchi' Maya family and settle into our modest accommodations. Have you ever tried callaloo or jipi japa?
In Laguna, we are hosted by the Toledo Ecotourism Association, a collective of local families that share their culture with visitors by inviting them into their homes for meals and workshops, giving tours of their forest farms and more.
The first weekend will be all about orientation and cultural exchange. Our great partners, the Center for Community Engaged Learning Abroad, will orient us to Belize and Maya culture, and the Maya youth will bring us up-to-date on the plans for the cultural exchange and youth camp – all a part of Sounding of the Conch Shell, a brand new Maya youth movement.
Be ready to learn about the Maya Land Rights Movement, explore a forest farm and learn about agroforestry, try lots of local vegetables and visit Lubaantun, a sacred Maya site. Did you know Belize is a former British colony? Their history of colonization means that the Maya people face similar struggles, and often study experiences of Indigenous people in Canada to find insight into their own fight for land rights and self-determination.
We'll also visit IXCACAO, a Maya chocolate-maker, and learn about the chocolate-making process from growing cacao pods and roasting the beans to grinding them down into a thick paste. Do you prefer your chocolate with 85% sugar and milk? That's about the amount of sugar in a Hershey's chocolate bar!
It’s time to get ready for the youth camp!
In March of 2018, two Maya youth came to Winnipeg on exchange and were hugely inspired by AYO! and the Indigenous youth leadership and engagement they saw in Winnipeg. Roberto Kus, one of the youth, took that inspiration back to Belize and worked with adult mentors, a co-youth organizer, Seferina Miss, and three other Maya youth leaders to envision and plan Sounding of the Conch Shell, their own youth movement inspired by AYO!’s Meet Me at the Bell Tower.
WThe five-day camp will bring together 15 Julian Cho Society Scholars, who are attending high school on scholarship, to explore Maya identity, culture and leadership. The camp will bring together ceremony, games, speakers and more to help Maya youth express themselves and plan for an Indigenous future.
As part of the camp, the JCS Scholars will take part in a photo voice training, field trip and project, present their work and work together to create an action plan for a future for youth and communities.
Finish off your time in Belize on the coast, snorkeling in the aquamarine water and soaking up the sun on the beach. Then it'll be time to head back to Winnipeg!
Get together one more time with your program team to reflect on your Reading Week experience. By this time, strangers have become like family, and it’s a good chance to talk over your growth with people who understand.
Belize: Indigenous Youth Movements is offered in partnership with the Toledo Ecotourism Association - Laguna and Julian Cho Society. TEA Laguna has been facilitating eco-cultural exchange opportunities in their village for over twenty years. Julian Cho Society is an Indigenous rights organization that promotes justice, education, and sustainable development, and JCS Scholars will join U of M students for the cultural exchange.
*Students experiencing financial barriers can apply for a Community Service-Learning Bursary of up to $1,500 to partially cover the costs of the program.
*This program is 100% not for profit. Your all-inclusive fee covers your round-trip airfare and all in-country transportation, accommodations, three daily meals, and activities, as well as your pre-departure training and a contribution to your host community.