Ecotourism: Giving Back While Traveling, History of the Indian Church Development Project in Belize

A group of artists, architects, and archaeologists, partly motivated by the relentless efforts of K. Pierce, have volunteered to work with the residents of Indian Church Village Belize to help them set up a local handicraft workshop or home industry to produce high quality Mayan handicrafts that they can sell to tourists. Our efforts also include education-based programs, including a library and literacy workshops, as well as a scholarship program. We hope that this will ultimately provide an economic and educational basis for many of the people who live in this very rural village (a village that doesn’t even have electricity and whose school for students ends at the age of 13!).

Indian Church Village Artisans, Belize (ICVA)

In the summer of 2000, we received a small scholarship to teach the people of the Indian Church in Belize handicrafts and integrate the community into the archaeological site of Lamanai. We have been working on this craft training project ever since. Many art workshops have been held for the residents of Indian Church Village in recent years. We emphasize the art of the Maya, especially that at the Lamanai location, as well as the revival of the old handicraft traditions. There are currently four groups including metal smiths, potters, stonemasons and a sewing group.

A non-profit organization called the Indian Church Village Artisans (ICVA) was formed and registered with the Government of Belize. We received a grant from the UK High Commission to build a handicraft center in the village. The building was completed in 2003 and it is now important to continue to raise additional funds for tools and equipment, as well as funds for teaching additional classes. The project also secured funding through the efforts of K. Pierce of Rotary International and Belize’s Social Investment Fund (SIF), who provided a reliable solar power system, classes and supplies for the craftsmen.

Indian Church Village Library

The Indian Church Village Library in Belize opened in July 2004 and is open 4 days a week. It offers summer reading incentive programs, adult literacy classes, and a reliable place to study for students. Recent fundraisers secured the librarian an annual salary, built a 10 by 16 inch addition, and added shelves and other necessary furniture. It still needs financial and financial support. The librarian received training from Belize National Library Service (BNLS) workshops.

Indian Church Village Scholarship Program

There are approximately 9 students from Indian Church Village in Belize who have received a scholarship and are going to school after age 13 (which is the typical age to quit as there is no school nearby AND it is very expensive to continue their education). A Canadian non-profit organization called S.H.A.R.E. played a huge role in this, as did K. Pierce’s private fundraising drives. These students must be at least 1 hour (approximately 2 hours) away and stay in a safe home during the week to attend middle and high school. The cost of this is out of reach for many residents of this small, remote village.

Beyond Touring is an ecotourism company This partly financially supports the possibilities of ecological and cultural tourism and supports this project to improve the community.

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