Volunteering at Holy Cross School on Ambergris Caye

Yesterday I headed to the San Mateo neighborhood of Ambergris Caye to visit Holy Cross Primary and Pre- School. They have 2 groups of volunteers from the US helping out and it was a great chance to see what’s new at this busy and always growing. school. A school attended by about 450 students from preschool level (starting at age 3) up to kids are ready to attend high school.

I didn’t know that I was also there to get inspired. But I really was. What an INCREDIBLE spot.

Entrance to the school

If you’ve been to the island, you’ve probably driven past Holy Cross on your way north…perhaps on your way to the Secret Beach area.

When you drive over the bridge, on your left you’ll see a new gas station. That is the entrance to one of San Pedro’s largest neighborhoods, San Mateo. (Oddly, San Mateo or Saint Matthew is the patron saint of tax collectors, accountants, and stock brokers. I guess they deserve representation too?)

Murals at the School
Volunteers have painted some beautiful murals at the school over the years

Just past the entrance of that subdivision is the large (and growing) Holy Cross Anglican School – tucked a bit back behind the old movie theatre.

Bikes locked up
Rows and rows of little bikes

I met a few members of the Holy Cross Education Foundation board and Miss Viviana, who has many jobs – one is volunteer coordinator. She is also a graduate of Holy Cross.

You’ll meet graduates of this school all over the island.

Let’s look around…

Character values sign at School

I met a group of 11 folks down from Minnesota for the week – helping with painting and construction while enjoying the 40-50 degree bump up in temperature from MN to BZ in January.

I visited the large cafeteria where all the kids are served hot lunches each day. Below is a wall where some of the volunteer groups left their mark in the cafeteria.

Wall of volunteers in the cafeteria
Large computer lab with air conditioning and a projector
Large computer lab with AC, an overhead projector and lots of chromebooks

Colorful classrooms and a gorgeous library with a funny name.

The suitcase library sign
Welcome to the Suitcase Library

The Suitcase Library! Because so many of the books are brought down in the luggage of visitors. La Biblioteca de Maletas. (I am on day 319 of DuoLingo and this is something I can finally translate!)

The library is always open to book donations. And if you can bring 25 of the same book, it can be used in classes. Viviana told me that the better readers can assist those with need some extra help…and when they all have the same book, it makes it so much easier!

Inside the library at Holy Cross
Kids are doing some lovely artwork on their library table

I’m already dreaming of my favorite childhood books. Heidi, Little House on the Prarie…I need them in bulk! Or maybe kids are into more modern things? I should probably talk to their in-house librarian about it. Gosh I love a library.

More great murals

Behind the school, a huge project is underway. A cistern is being built to collect water. On-top will be two new school rooms and then a church and a community center. AMAZING. They already supply a good amount of their electricity thru solar panels. I love this school! And am amazed by the fundraisers…

The new project at Holy Cross
The cistern is being finished…

I headed toward the back of the property – passing the swing sets and playgrounds…this land is soooo low and close to the lagoon. Fill is in constant need – the playground is flooded completely during a very high tide.

A volunteer group from Maryland, 5 in total, is organizing football/soccer for the kids. Teaching skills and playing games after school is out for an entire month.

The beginnings of a football pitch with fencing to keep excited kids from kicking the ball in the lagoon.

Football pitch being built

And the young volunteers – US college students helping during their winter break.


A group called More Than Futbol – you can see their Facebook page here for more information. Like the Grinch, my heart was growing a few sizes the more I learned about this school and these volunteers and coordinators.

Here is a photo from their facebook page – 200 hours to get to this stage for the field. So awesome.

More than Futbols hard work building a soccer field at Holy Cross
Hard works went into this field

SO I hear you asking…how can I help? I get a few emails a week asking about volunteer opportunities in San Pedro – many just for the day or a few days…and that works!

You can email Miss Viviana at [email protected]. There is always painting to do…or simple repair work. If you have skills – artist, construction, electrician, plumbing, all of it, they can use them!

3 groups of dentists are coming down this year from the US for free clinics at the school and in the town. I visited one of those clinics at Holy Cross a bunch of years back if you want to get an idea of what that is about. The Smile Clinic is in its 17th or 18th year!

And you can donate. As you can imagine, this is a huge operation that needs a significant amount of funds to run – see their comprehensive website with all the information about how you can help.

One warning 😉 Hugs are given liberally to visitors. I got some drive-by hugs from about 5 students. 8 or 9-year-olds running by on the way out to meet their parents after school.

If you are ever feeling down…email the school and maybe visit for a few hours. I promise…you might be a bit sweatier and dirtier a few hours later but man…visiting Holy Cross is really uplifting.

I’ll be back! Hopefully with some books.

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  1. Connie Carter on January 26th, 2024 at 12:38 pm

    Awesome article. Years ago when I came down I volunteered to work with the kids on English. Kids were great so loving and appreciative.

    • Francis Wilson on January 26th, 2024 at 12:58 pm

      Thank you so much for visiting Holy Cross and writing such a beautiful article. Holy Cross is an incredible school and is always in need of volunteers and donations – from books to shoes to classroom supplies – the needs are ever present. I hope your article will encourage many others to visit❤️

  2. Joni on January 26th, 2024 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you soooo much for sharing. Going to look into this.

    • San Pedro Scoop on January 27th, 2024 at 8:55 am

      Oh cool! Let me know about your experience.

  3. David Martin on January 26th, 2024 at 3:03 pm

    Bonus: those Maryland snowbirds get to return home with an envious winter tan…

    • San Pedro Scoop on January 27th, 2024 at 8:54 am

      Or at least a nice shade of pink.

  4. Claire Dempsey on January 26th, 2024 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks for this excellent article on Holy Cross School. I was one of the volunteers from Minnesota this week, and I can say we had a wonderful time! Loved my first experience at this school. I’ll be back. Great scoop on a great school. Thank you so much!

    • San Pedro Scoop on January 27th, 2024 at 8:54 am

      Thank you for all you do 🙂

  5. Susan Payne on January 26th, 2024 at 8:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing! We were visitors in 2007 and loved being able to bring supplies and tour the school. It was amazing then what was being accomplished. The students were so loving and appreciative. It looks like so much more has been accomplished and we’re looking forward to helping on our upcoming trip.

    • San Pedro Scoop on January 27th, 2024 at 8:54 am

      It was just opening then…or the first year? I think it was just 3 classrooms…it’s probably 5x in size today. Amazing place.

  6. Rob Douglas on January 28th, 2024 at 6:40 am

    Another great piece RC. Inspiring enough to motivate action! Thank you for that.