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TWU’s Enactus fights for education in Belize

By: Nadiyah Suleiman, Page Editor

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Left to Right: Rob Rylander, David Rylander, Hayley Rylander, Maria Reyes, Kaitlyn Brussow

Enactus, a TWU student organization, recently travelled to Belize over the summer to provide support and supplies to the village of San Antonio Rio Hondo. Faculty Sponsor of Enactus Dr. David Rylander took three students, Senior Marketing major Citlalli Rodriguez, Senior Human Resources major Kaitlyn Brussow, and senior Fashion Design and Fashion merchansidingmajor Lina Suarez, along with  alumni, Maria Reyes and Sandra Gonzales. Enactus has visited Belize periodically over the past five years; the most recent trip was dedicated to distributing school supplies, games, soccer balls and clothes to the community of San Antonio Rio Hondo.

Five years ago, Enactus granted Lupita Mendez, a young girl in Belize, a scholarship that enabled her to continue her education past the sixth grade.  She is now a teacher in Yo Creek, a village neighboring San Antonio Rio Hondo, where Enactus provided her with the school supplies she needed to start teaching. Two years ago, a Special Topics Study Tour class made up of 10 Enactus students travelled to Belize and helped start a girls’ soccer team. Rylander said: “Culturally, since it’s a very masculine oriented culture, we hope we’ve made an impact on equality by helping the girls get a soccer team and hopefully being seen more as equals.”

During the most recent trip, there was a focus on distributing clothes and shoes to impoverished families.

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From left to right: Front row: Citlalli Rodriguez; Middle row: Maria Reyes; Carmen Jones; Lina Suarez; Haley Rylander; back row: Dr. David Rylander stand with a male student during the Enactus trip to Belize during Summer 2015.

Rylander said: “We took a lot of kids’ clothes because they have about four hundred people in the village, but most of them are kids, and most are pretty poor.” A previous initiative supplied the library with about 1,000 books.

Additionally, Enactus has provided scholarships to about 25-30 students in Belize, in order to pay the bus fare that causes many children to drop out of school after sixth grade. Rodriguez said: “It’s easy to overlook our blessings whenever we are granted everything so easily. Going to [San Antonio Rio Hondo] was a really humbling experience for me.”

There was a push to get more gardening tools and seeds to the village. Rylander said: “Our intent was to try and start a community gardening co-op but that hasn’t worked out.” Rylander remains optimistic saying they still hope the tools will encourage more gardening as a sustainable way to grow more food while creating a possible source of extra income.

Rylander stated: “Most of the challenges down there have been cultural. A lot of people just don’t feel the need to change even though they’re poor and have almost no opportunity. Just as long as they’ve got their rice and beans and basic needs they just don’t feel initiative to do anything.”

Rylander’s father Rod Rylander, who lives in Belize, has been Enactus’s liaison and has helped coordinate the projects, identifying the needs of the village, and distributing the supplies. Enactus has also focused on encouraging more women to make and sell their crafts to hopefully increase their household income. In the past they have provided sewing machines to prompt more interest in the craft business.

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Students of Lupita Mendez work on their assignments.

Future projects remain unplanned as the project is reevaluated to see if Enactus can do anything else for this village. Brussow said: “It’s a beautiful country; the people are nice. If you have a chance to go with Enactus, go. You’ll definitely appreciate life and appreciate the things that you have, but you’ll also feel like you’ve given back to the community.”


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