The shut down in international travel caused by COVID-19 has disrupted economies around the globe, but none more so than destination travel countries like Belize. A small country in Central America, Belize’s economy is based on tourism, especially visitors from the United States who come to explore the country’s coral reefs and lush rainforests. With international travel ground to a halt since spring of this year, Inspire EdVentures, a US-based educational travel company that regularly brings student groups to the country, recognized the negative impact this would have on the people of Belize. According to Eric Weber, Inspire EdVenture’s Co-Founder. “We said: what can we do to help? The answer came through a new partnership with a Belize-based environmental education center, Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
Developing International Partnerships
When Inspire EdVentures began to search for ways to give back to Belize during the pandemic, they knew Monkey Bay was the place to start. Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary has been operating in Belize since 1990 near Belmopan, Belize’s capital. As an environmental education center with a focus on experimental education programs on Belize’s natural environment, Monkey Bay has developed close connections with local Belizean communities over the past 30 years.
“The highlight was being asked by (Inspire EdVentures) if I knew of any immediate needs from local rural villages in our area of influence around Monkey Bay,” said Matthew Miller, Monkey Bay’s Co-Founder and Managing Director. Recently, Miller had become aware of a local community center in the community of Mahogany Heights that had lost all of its computer equipment due to a burglary. With many residents lacking a reliable internet connection at home, the loss of computers meant that many children could not continue distance-learning during the pandemic. “When I told the story of the theft of the laptops that students were using for their studies, the Inspire response was: I think we can help,” said Miller.
Together, Monkey Bay and Inspire EdVentures connected with the head of the Mahogany Heights Community Center, Ms. Raquel Vega, and within a month had the computer equipment shipped to Belize. “When I delivered the unopened shipping boxes to Ms. Raquel’s house, she was all smiles,” said Miller. With the computers available, children in the community were finally able to complete their studies on computers and tablets, allowing young people to pursue their education even with schools closed for the pandemic.
For the founders of Inspire EdVentures, partnerships like this one with Monkey Bay are a way to both create change and help give back to the people and communities of Belize that have hosted Inspire programs over the years. “Opportunities to help those in need is exactly why Inspire is part of our name. By offering the educational experiences that we do, we can provide resources to the amazing communities that we visit,” said Weber. “That is our mission.” This project would never have been possible without the connection of Monkey Bay, which provided local knowledge of need in the community to Inspire’s team. As Inspire EdVentures continues to move forward into the next phase of its own programs in Belize, finding new ways to give back to local communities through partnerships like Monkey Bay remains a priority. Most of all, Inspire hopes that it can inspire others to make a change and look beyond their immediate world. “Currently everyone is worried about COVID, but it’s important to know the repercussions for countries like Belize,” said Weber. “We’re trying to get people to observe more and to think beyond themselves and their own communities.”
article by Devin Windelspecht
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The mission of Inspire Edventures is to enhance the educational opportunities of all people and provide support to the local communities that host our activities.