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 Ministries has built over 400 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 Belizean’s 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.
Hand in Hand offers scholarship assistance to 30 students to continue their high school and college education. Many of our students study social work and nursing. Students become a catalyst for change in their own communities. Scholarship students participate in community service projects, and tutor younger students to earn their scholarships.
Annual scholarship of $250 covers books, uniforms and school fees, enough to enable them to keep reaching their academic goals.
Trips to Belize are back!
Individual or Family
Are you an individual or a family looking to participate in an immersion trip experience to Belize? We can help!
We have an “open” trip scheduled for November 21-27th. 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 an existing 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.
Hand in Hand builds approximately 35 houses every year. Thirty of those houses are built by teams traveling from the US. Each team member makes a charitable donation to Hand in Hand to cover travel costs, building materials and overhead expenses for the program. When the pandemic arrived in March 2020, all team travel stopped. House builds stopped. Financial resources for running the program stopped. We searched for a solution to meet the need for housing. Because the need for safe housing never stops.
We found one. We call it virtual builds. Here’s how it works:
· Individuals volunteer to be a virtual trip host
· Hosts commit to raising $8,500 to cover the cost of materials and construction of a 16 X 20 ft. basic house (includes bathroom plumbing)
· Hosts will receive a brief bio of their prospective home owner and a date for the build will be set
· Construction of the house takes two weeks. During construction all donors will receive video updates and will be invited to participate in 2-3 Zoom meetings with the staff and the
It may not be as fun as hopping on a plane and going to Belize for a week, but YOUR gift will have the power to change the life of a family in desperate need of safe housing. Watch a house be built in 60 seconds here.
Please contact Allison Ridenour for more information or to sign up to become a trip host.
With over 400 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.
In her own words, Building for Change Partner, Irma C. shares her gratitude towards the Building for Change program, its staff and volunteers who helped build her home.
In February 2021, Loyola University Chicago participated in a virtual build for Building for Change partner, Ms. Emilie. Participant, first-year medical student Husna shared her thoughts, “Through your dedication, our group was still able to have an amazing and insightful time. Each of the events were truly informative and beneficial. This experience will not only inform our future as physicians, but also help us grown spiritually as human beings. We are certainly impressed by Hand in Hand Ministries’ dedication and service. We are so happy that we were able to tag along on this beautiful journey with your organization.”