Ecotourism: ‘Giving Back’ While You Travel, History of Indian Church Development Project in Belize

A group of artists, architects and archaeologists motivated in part by the tireless efforts of K. Pierce have been volunteering to work with the residents of Indian Church Village in Belize to help them set up a local craft workshop, or cottage industry, to produce quality Maya crafts 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 this will eventually provide an economic and education base for many of the people who live in this very rural village (a village that doesn’t even have electricity and whose school ends for students at age 13!).

Indian Church Village Artisans, Belize (ICVA)

In the summer of 2000, we were awarded a small grant to teach crafts to the people of the village of Indian Church in Belize and to help integrate the community with the Lamanai archaeological site. We have been working on this craft-training project since that time. Over the past years many art workshops for the residents of Indian Church Village have been conducted. We are emphasizing Maya art, especially that found at the Lamanai site, as well as the revival of ancient craft traditions. There are four groups now and they include metal smiths, potters, stone carvers, and a sewing group.

A community-based organization called Indian Church Village Artisans (ICVA) has now been formed and registered with the government of Belize. We were awarded a grant from the British High Commission to build a craft center in the village. The building was completed in 2003 and it is now vital to continue to seek additional funding for tools and equipment, as well as funding to teach more classes. The project also secured funding through the efforts of K. Pierce from Rotary International and Belize’s Social Investment Fund (SIF), which has provided a reliable solar power system, classes, and supplies for the artisans.

Indian Church Village Library

The Indian Church Village Library in Belize was opened in July 2004, it is open 4 days a week, it offers Summer Reading Incentive Programs, adult literacy courses, and a reliable place for students to study. Recent fund raising efforts secured a year salary for the librarian, built a 10′ x 16′ addition, and added shelving and other needed furniture. It continues to need support, both financially and through the donation of supplies. The librarian has been trained through workshops by the Belize National Library Service (BNLS).

Indian Church Village Scholarship Program

There are approximately 9 students from Indian Church Village in Belize who have been awarded a scholarship and are going to school past the age of 13 (which is the typical age to stop because there is no school nearby AND it is very expensive to further their education). A Canadian non-profit organization called S.H.A.R.E. has played a large part in this as well as the private fund raising efforts of K. Pierce. These students have to travel at least 1 hour away (some 2 hours) and need to stay in a secure home during the week in order to go to middle and high school. The cost of this is out of reach to many residents of this small, remote village.

Beyond Touring a ecotourism company that promotes eco & heritage tourism opportunities in part monetarily support this community enhancement project.

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