Just south of Mexico, this Caribbean country is home to beautiful beaches, tropical climate and rich Mayan culture. It is also home to widespread poverty and disease and that is where Hand in Hand comes in. We build homes, operate a day-care center and pre-school, provide care for children with HIV/AIDS, offer scholarship assistance for college students, and empower our Building for Change partners with classes, skills training and the use of a community kitchen.
Our work in Belize began in 2002. Wayne Fowler wished to expand our mission in the Caribbean and sought the advice of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCNs) who had long standing operations in Belize. The sisters connected Wayne to Mark Thessing who had recently finished his 2 year commitment as a Jesuit volunteer. Mark saw housing as the greatest need in Belize, followed by HIV/AIDS care and prevention.
Continued growth of our programming has led to the construction of the Fowler Community Center which has become home to all our Belize programs. This truly has been a blessing to our organization!
Hand in Hand has built over 450 homes in Belize City since 2002. Many Belizean families live in substandard housing. Hand in Hand volunteers make a difference by hammering out 16’×20′ wooden homes that keep families dry during Belize’s six-month-long rainy season. Volunteers work side-by-side with our Building for Change partners, forming close personal connections as they complete construction together.
Families must undergo an intensive screening process in order to receive a home, and are required to assist in another family’s build in a “pay it forward” sort of system. In conjunction with this program, the recipients must provide proof of ownership of their own land, assist with the building of their home and attend empowerment classes. Out of this program, the leadership team, made up of Building for Change partners, raised money to build two home for fellow Belizeans in 2015 and 2017.
It’s hard to believe a 16’×20′ wooden house could have such a big impact on a family, a community or you – but it does. Donate now.
Sharing the vision of our founder Wayne Fowler, Abel Vargas, Belize Director, had a dream for putting all Belize programs under one roof and finally in 2017, this 7,200-square-foot vision become a reality. Under the direction of Poncio Coc, local workers, immersion trip groups, Building for Change partners, and scholarship students worked together to build this beacon of hope for the south side of Belize.
Hand in Hand dedicated the building in January of 2018 and were blessed to have over 150 people and four television stations gather for the occasion.
It is more than an Outreach Center, it is a community center that will better equipped to change the lives of families in Belize for years to come!
As our Building for Change program grew, so did our awareness of the issues facing families living in poverty in Belize. We soon recognized the need to address the growing HIV/AIDS crisis, because Belize carried the unfortunate distinction of having the highest rate of infection in Central America. We chose to focus on the children affected by and infected by HIV/AIDS by opening the Outreach Center – a pre-school and day care, in 2005. In the early years, nearly all of our children were infected by HIV/AIDS, or had an infected, or deceased parent. In addition to providing a loving environment, we monitored the children’s health, administered antiretroviral medications and often treated the pregnant mothers of the children in our program. As the children grew, so did our program.
In 2009, with the help of a grant from the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the Catholic Health Initiative we were able to take our services out into the community with our Mobile Outreach Program. We now accompany about 75 children ages 1-17 in their medical journey with HIV/AIDS. The Global Fund has recognized our program as the “gold standard” for treatment of children with HIV/AIDS.
We also recognized the need for support services for our children as they entered their adolescent years. Support groups began forming in 2010 and continue providing a valuable resource for our teens and young adults as they face the challenges of living with HIV/AIDS.
Outreach Center Today
Though this devastating disease still takes the lives of some of our children, we are experiencing tremendous success. Due to declining mother to child transmission of the disease, we no longer limit access to our pre-school and day care to those who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. They are all affected by poverty, but thankfully, our intervention, and efforts to inform the community about the disease, has eliminated the need for a special school for these children.
Preschool and Daycare
As the month of March is set aside to celebrate child stimulation month, this year is no different! This year’s theme is “We are strong! Learning and Growing”
The month is full of activities and so far our preschoolers have enjoyed chats from our Policemen and Nurses and the role they play in our society, while interacting with them. In addition to this they were visited by our Fire Service Crew and were taken for a short drive in it.
The Scholarship Assistance Program was started in 2004 with five students. We are currently assisting 21 high school students. We work with determined students who have the desire to finish high school, and face financial challenges that make it difficult for them to continue their studies.
The average annual cost of a high school education in Belize City is $1,000. Our program provides a partial scholarship of $250 to help with tuition, books, uniforms, and school fees. Our scholarship students participate in tutoring sessions and are required to do community service. Many of our students are high achievers who graduate with honors. Some have been Valedictorians. Many of our students continue their studies beyond high school, others have found successful careers. Hand in Hand is proud to have been an agent of change in helping to make a difference in the lives of these young people.
Trips to Belize are back!
Individual or Family - Solo Travelers Look Here!
Are you an individual or a family looking to participate in an immersion trip experience to Belize? We can help!
Open trips are available throughout the year and open to anyone. Give us a call and we’d be happy to find a trip that works with your schedule.
Do you have a friend group, church or school group looking for a service opportunity? We have dates available throughout the year. Reserve your spot today!
If you think a trip to Belize is in your future, please contact Director of Trips, Allison Ridenour She will help you find a trip to suit your individual and group needs.
Each year we host nearly 30 groups of volunteers, made up of individuals, families, schools, and church groups who join us for a week-long immersion experience in Belize. Our immersion trips go far beyond "voluntourism" and truly transform both the lives of the trip participants and the community members with which we work. Experience true impact, learn about the local community and immerse yourself in a new culture.
Participants stay in a Hand in Hand guest house called the Starfish House. Three meals a day are provided, along with building materials and tools.
To commemorate and celebrate its 20th Anniversary, Heritage Bank Ltd. Board and Executive Management undertook a very generous gesture of building 12 homes for families in need in Belize, especially during the challenging times of the pandemic.
Their staff also gave up their weekends to volunteer and assist in the building of these homes and participated in the handing over and blessing of the homes. In all this, God was with us, as we remained safe at all times. As Heritage Bank Limited refers to a quote from Publilius Syrus “Where there is unity, there is always victory”
Hand in Hand thanks you for your kind generosity and support!
With over 450 homes built within close proximity,
many of our partners banded together to form the Leadership Committee, to make a difference in their own community. Learn more about their new initiative, the Kitchen Project.
“I loved coming to the worksite the first day with two other girls from my group, a teacher and Carla. It was amazing getting to see Carla’s home and from the moment we got there everyone was so kind. I thought it was very special how the neighbors immediately wanted to help even though they knew they wouldn’t get anything in return. Another thing I took away is how impactful it was for me to see how we can all accomplish a greater goal and not speak the same language. It goes to show we are all human!” – Gracie, High School Immersion trip volunteer
“First of all I want to say thanks to all those people who helped be build my house for me. February 14th will be the day I was blessed with a house. I have a good over my head, I am sleeping well, I am not getting wet, and I no longer have to stay up watching my kid. I thank God for never leaving my side.” – Jeime, Building for Change Partner