Yesterday was a beautiful day in more ways than one.
In the afternoon, under the shining Belize sun, a group of persistent, motivated, hopeful women cut the ribbon for the Shine Center and Hope Haven Home in downtown San Pedro, Belize.
The home was filled with donors and supporters for this AMAZING project that doesn’t just give hope and sanctuary to children who have suffered greatly in their short lives but gives hope to a community that like others around the world, can feel overwhelmed at times.
But let me back up…and try to get this a bit more organized.
Who: The Shine Organization and Hope Haven Children’s Home
What, When, Where and Why:
Two years after dreaming up a MUCH needed home for children on Ambergris Caye, a powerful group of women cut the ribbon for new Hope Haven Children’s Home.
2 years of dreaming, begging, scraping, soliciting donations, fundraising – incredibly hard work, INCREDIBLE persistence. It can be easy to assume that nothing will change or say “I’m not the one who can change this” – none of these women stopped there.
It’s easy to say “I’m not good at asking for donations” or “I’m terrible at numbers” – they didn’t stop there.
The team worked HARD to locate the building. They found one in town. A building that for years had been a “girly bar” is now a home for children.
I won’t dwell on the building’s former status (questions like “why are these KNOWN bars of…ill-repute given liquor licenses or business licenses?” in our town – that is for another forum though not something to brush aside) -the transformation is INCREDIBLE. They even bought the stripper pole from the former owner – sanitized it and re-installed it as a ballet bar for the kids.
One cannot complete erase the past — but hopefully draw on it for strength.
LOOK at the building now.
The first floor is gorgeous. With hang out space and offices for counseling…play areas and meeting spaces.
And a beautiful kitchen — a new home for the San Pedro Food Bank.
An annex for play and crafts…
It’s the details…so much work and heart went into this project. And the work DEFINITELY continues.
Upstairs is the private area for the kids and their house mother (they are interviewing for those positions)…
There are 22 beds. A large lounge and bathrooms – a brand new washer and dryer. And beautiful outside space.
There were speeches by some of the board of directors and by the Mayor, Danny Guerrero. There were lots of tears. The message was clear – this was only the beginning. Volunteers, donations, help would all be needed going forward.
Brittney O’Daniel, owner of Sandbar Restaurant and Hotel, spoke about how the idea for the home came about. 2 years ago, when she was helping run the food bank, she became close to many families but especially to one young girl. An orphan raised by her older sister, the sister was unable to care for her any longer.
The young girl was sent to a home in Belize City where she wasn’t properly cared for – she ran away. And Brittney has been looking for her ever since.
We need a haven for these kids on our island. She didn’t just think it. Or put it on Social Media. She made it happen.
That is what really struck me yesterday. With what must have been 100000 “this will never happen”s, the board persisted.
They held countless fundraisers – from High Tea parties to bringing back the San Pedro Lighted Boat Parade (this year’s is December 16 – to benefit this very project). They just held a two day haunted house – the $2bzd entrance fee for kids going to the project. There have been cocktail parties, silent auctions, balls and fashion shows.
They organize tutoring for those who cannot read at local schools (they need volunteers!) – they empower high school girls with the SHINE Group – they help feed families on our island.
They will not take NO for an answer.
Anyway…enough from me. Humbled and in awe.
They had a wish list at the party — and the work will continue.
They need a fence and some things to pass inspections with the social services division — they will be recommending the kids to stay at Hope Haven.
Please reach out to them if you can help. This is a project that needs the whole community.
I headed home just as the sun was setting over the lagoon…
Thinking about how much I love about living on Ambergris Caye.
For information on how you can help — please see their website.