If you are a child and become a ‘ward of the state’ in Belize, then instead of being placed in a foster home, you would likely be placed in a home like ‘Liberty’ in Ladyville, Belize (if you’re lucky).
Liberty Children’s Home is a privately-run, donor-sustained residence and school for children without parents. It is located in ‘Ladyville’, an area close to the airport, former area for the bawdy houses, or ‘ladies of the night’ for visiting merchants and sailors.
Years ago, a large parcel of land was purchased and sustainable buildings erected for the students. There are 40 students at Liberty, and they live as one large family. Both the director and principal live on site with their families, and there are a rotating group of visiting volunteers that work in the school house, or at maintaining the water, septic, gardens, or other jobs that Liberty needs help with on an annual basis.
Liberty is really a model institution. The residences and buildings are designed in cylinder fashion to withstand hurricanes, and the ceilings are tall to draw the warm air up, and keep the cool air cross-breezes circulating at the living level. There is a grey-water filtration system run by gravity and the sun, and a working garden, greenhouse, and hens supplying the kitchen with food.
I was wondering if the lessons on display in the school house – everything from the parts of the country to its shield and even a copy of Hamlet – were there for show, or if the students actually learned the symbolic parts of their history.
But, sure enough, when I asked a small girl walking by if she could explain the shield to me, she said,
“yes, there is the ship representing people coming to Belize, and the ax and battering ram represent the war with the Spanish who wanted to take over the country. We beat them by surprising them while they slept! Now slaves aren’t forced to mill wood.” Wow. Good enough for me.
Liberty receives an annual income of about $4,000 from the state, and the other 98% of its expenses are raised through fundraising (T-shirts, micro-enterprises, grants) and donations. The director works hard to keep Liberty in the news and to communicate its needs to its network of donors. It is active, well known and well equipped.
There are other state-run children’s homes in Belize which aren’t so well off. They are funded entirely by the state, with no donations, and are often in large cities rather than the country, so the available space to grow one’s own food, for example, is non-existent. If you don’t think just one active person can make a difference, then think of Liberty.