Looking for somewhere to brunch this Sunday? Look no further than Chester Friends Meeting at 3451 Gurneyville Road outside of Wilmington. They’re hosting a fundraiser for the Belize Friends School, a beloved ministry project of Friends United Meeting, the denomination to which most local Friends belong.
It will be held 11:30-1:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12 featuring pancakes, breakfast casseroles, sausage, eggs, sweet breads, fruit and drinks; cost is by donation.
Also, if you’re looking to understand why the Belize Friends School is in crisis, you can meet with the General Secretary of Friends United Meeting, Kelly Kellum, at Wilmington Friends Meeting at a reception at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11.
The Belize Friends School has been a fundraising focus for local Friends since the announcement last fall that the school might close this year due to a lack of operating funds. Many Friends from the Clinton County area have traveled to this school in Belize City as volunteer teachers and builders, so the news that the school might suddenly close hit hard.
In the Belizean educational system, students face a primary school exit exam which determines whether or not they are prepared to move on to secondary school. Passing the exam is proof of an eighth-grade level of attainment. Failing the exam means that the student cannot enroll in high school and is left with few options.
The Belize Friends School offers a second chance for students who have failed the exam, offering them remedial education and the opportunity to take the test again.
There isn’t another school in Belize doing exactly what Belize Friends School is doing. If the students are not able to pass the exam, legitimate employment options for them are grim, and many turn to drug trafficking, gangs, or forms of prostitution.
Belize, by and large, is an economically advanced country. As in America, however, there are areas of poverty and despair.
The Belize Friends School is located in one of these areas, in the Southside neighborhood of Belize City, a transit point for drugs and weapons, and home to gangs which are connected to North American gangs in places like Los Angeles. The stakes are high for these kids. Unlike their counterparts in other neighborhoods, there’s no safety net for them.
Now, the school is in danger of closing its doors in the middle of the school year due to a number of changing circumstances taking place simultaneously. On Dec. 4, Katie Ubry-Terrell published a post on Wilmington Yearly Meeting’s website, outlining reasons why the school urgently needs financial help. You can read about it at wilmingtonyearlymeeting.org/achristmasmiracle.
She published an update here: https://wilmingtonyearlymeeting.org/belize-christmas-miracle-update/
To date, Friends in our area have raised $8,846.64 toward keeping the school open this year.
Wilmington College Campus Minister and local Quaker pastor Nancy McCormick has led numerous work teams to the Belize Friends School over the years.
“The Belize Friends School is a safe place that gives children and youth an opportunity to discover or rediscover their worth as a treasured human being, to learn, and to grow academically as well as learning ways to deal with life,” said McCormick.
The impact of the school’s second-chance education is dramatic.
Jeremy Andrews, a recent graduate of Belize Friends School, has just completed his first exam at the high school level, and he emerged second in his class! As a result, he earned a place on the Honor Roll.
Jeremy joins Denfield Gallego, another former student of Belize Friends School, who has been on the Honor Roll for two years consecutively. The boys attend Wesley College, which is among the top three high schools in Belize. Having two former students on the college’s honor role is a testament to the quality of education provided by the Belize Friends School.
It is for students like Jeremy and Denfield and others who follow behind them that the Belize Friends School needs to remain open, to continue to provide academic preparation, hope and light in the what otherwise could be the darkness of lost educational opportunity.
As East Clinton High School student Aidan Henson, who has been a member of the two most recent work teams, states, “The Belize Friends School is a gateway to a new future for kids that may not have had another opportunity to succeed in the educational system.”
Quakers in our area are becoming known for their zeal for fundraising for missions. Last year, they raised over $30,000 to assist with rebuilding the Wilmington School in Puerto Padre, Cuba, which was originally established by Quakers from Clinton County.
Please consider helping the Belize Friends School in its mission to bridge the educational gap and give disadvantaged youth another chance to further their education and improve their lives.
If you would like to make a donation without attending the brunch fundraiser, you can do so by making a check out to Wilmington Yearly Meeting with Belize Friends School in the memo line and mailing it to WYM, 1870 Quaker Way, Box 1194, Wilmington, OH 45177.