Travel is the sweetest engagement to which my whole life is blessed but it is the greatest privilege to help people in need along the way.
Unfortunately, vulnerable children around the world are left susceptible to capture and torture, however education and support gives these struggling children the means to create their own freedom. Education can shift an impossible current, free people and change the entire nation. Every child deserves a safe, loving permanent home, that’s a basic human need.
We are a well-intentioned international community so attuned to meeting immediate needs with measurable results, but we are blind to what might come in the next century? There are obvious repercussions of millions of children growing up without so much as primary and secondary education and these habits tend to duplicate as we reproduce.
Today I had the pleasure of interviewing an inspirational lady- Ms. Agatha Valentine. Ms. Agatha has been the director of Liberty since March 2013 and shows so much love and passion for the institute. Prior to managing Liberty’s, Ms. Agatha spent many years working for non-government organisations- mainly with disadvantaged women and children in crisis. Her professional background and empathy shines brightly throughout the grounds of Liberty, creating a feeling of happiness and hope.
From the moment I walked through the gates of the orphanage, my arms were wide open. The children’s eyes are pure and faultless, these precious little ones laugh in the face of so much trial and choose joy despite their circumstance. They inspire me and should inspire us all.
There is a preschool and day care on grounds, with a total of 19 dedicated staff. As the children come from a range of backgrounds including human trafficking, sexual abuse, violence etc.… The teams here are highly trained to look after individuals with extended planning and behavioral modification.
At present, Liberty’s takes care of 40 children, which exceeds the capacity of the 30 children that they are currently licensed for. This is down to limited resources. The majority of children here don’t end up being adopted, despite this being the ultimate goal. In my opinion, this is due to the lack of resources in The Department Of Human Services. People simply aren’t aware that the institute even exists.
Ultimately, children remaining in institution long term is unhealthy, as every child needs a family. How will the children learn to be a good wife, mother, father etc.… if they don’t have a family to learn and grow with? Liberty’s is a wonderful place but without adoption the children are unaware of what it is like to function in a family. This creates bigger issues in adult life. For example, children loose sensitivity for things like the cost of food, as they don’t have the opportunity to walk around the supermarket with a family to witness the price of essentials.
The Institute is well planned out with different living quarters separating the boys and the girls. The bunk beds are extremely close together, meaning personal space in limited with up to 21 children sleeping under the one small roof. The basics are there however things could improve with the right support. The library and outdoor area is great but a computer room, textiles center and allotment are in hope for the near future to help increase life skills for the children and reduce costs for the orphanage where appropriate.
Volunteers and donations play a huge part in making the institution a success and is a subject I will briefly touch on. Most voluntary programs actually incur a fee, which covers anything from the volunteer’s food, accommodation and utilities. The thing is, there is a much bigger picture than that which is something I want to create awareness of.
Between September and December, the amount of volunteers at Liberty’s is low, which means that the income to the institution is reduced. The children still need feeding and the lights still need to be kept on which is where the fee associated with the volunteer programs is used to maintain a comfortable living environment throughout the year.
When funds are low, the food really goes down to basics, which does happen on a regular basis. When possible, fish and other animal products are ordered to sustain a healthy balanced diet.
The one thing that really strung a string in my heart was when Ms. Agatha mentioned about the effects that the donations have on the paid staff that keep the institute alive. During low season, if there isn’t enough money then she has to let staff go. These children have already suffered from separation anxiety and staff moral is damaged when a position is taken away. Can you imagine putting your heart and sole into something but only feeling valued when it suits? Of course…the whole team here are valued all year round but I just wanted to point out the fee’s associated are budgeted throughout the year for times in need… like retaining staff.
The children at Liberty aren’t as fortunate as some of us who have the chance to travel the world. A mix of culture comes with the volunteers, which is a wonderful learning opportunity for everybody.
The government plays a huge role in child safety and provides medication for children who suffer with HIV and have other disabilities. With regards to family visits, this is completely circumstantial. The government actually asks Ms. Agatha’s opinion on individual arrangements, because who else knows better than the lady who protects these children day in and day out?
What can we do to help?
Companies from all over the world are able to sponsor. I am aware that most corporate companies would want some exemption, and unfortunately the organisation can’t issue receipts to meet requirements to make tax claimable from overseas. A company who work closely to Liberty’s (A broader view) can however provide the necessary tax receipt, which can be easily arranged through Ms. Agatha.
Volunteering is one of the most rewarding opportunities available, and you can visit from 1 week up to 3 months. Why don’t you jump in and help out, no prior experience is necessary. Together, wonderful things are possible. It builds self confidence and lifts spirits all around!
A friend asked why I encourage people to do voluntary work in other countries (as well as their own)…Why not help people in your own country first? I could write and write about gaining new experiences, culture, religion, cuisine, environment and building world wide career connections (because not everybody chooses to have their own country as their home) but all of the above is fairly self explanatory.
So instead, here is a true heart felt story about Mr M’wafrica Haynes.
As my work at The Orphanage was coming to an end, M’wafrica kindly offered to drive me to my hotel in Belize City. This is where he told me his story about how he ended up working at Liberty.
In 2003 M’wafrica, his sister and his cousin left Guyana to try and make a better life for them selves. They were once told to head to America because this is where they can make money. So they left…by foot and walked, hitch hiked, walked some more, slept in bus shelters along the way and they finally made it to Panama. Just to put things into perspective- that is a 2500km walk. A relative of the family was supposed to send some money for them to be able to continue their journey and illegally make their way into America. This fell through so by foot again, they made their way as far as Belize.
His sister unfortunately took the wrong path and resorted to prostitution in order to save up enough money to get to America. On the day she arrived in America a family member was due to pick her up from immigration but failed to arrive, this resulted in her being deported back to Guyana, where she still remains.
When arriving in Ladyville and making an abandoned house their home, M’wafrica and his cousin slowly started to build a life. They found jobs and were able to feed themselves. The abandoned house happened to be outside the grounds of Liberty Children Orphanage. M’wafrica grew up without parents, so he started to go to Liberty’s to play with the children and offer them the love and support that every child deserves. He did this every single day, for years then he was offered a permanent paid position. He brings so much love into the life of the little ones and so much integrity to the business itself.
So the moral of the story is that one opportunity leads directly to another, so dare to take a risk and challenge your self. Going abroad is like a whimsical romance; exciting, passionate and unpredictable. But by going abroad to volunteer you can strip the city and its local culture revealing its angels. You become vulnerable, dependent and invested. The lust of wander is compromised by its challenges but by traveling to make a difference rather than just to see the difference you will fill your life with deep and permanent ideas of living.
What is learned in a classroom is just a very small part of the learning process. The real learning starts when you cross borders and travel miles for the real knowledge. We can’t help everyone, but everyone can all help someone, which is something you don’t need a reason for. While you have traveled so far across the sea’s, you should definitely visit the near by island Caye Caulker.