A WARP member sent us a clipping about a community in Belize looking for weavers to volunteer in their village. We reached out to Roy Rylander, a community organizer in this small village, for more information.
In 2008, Rod Rylander decided to retire in the small community of San Antonio Rio Hondo, located on a narrow island in Belize near the boundary of Mexico. This remote village is home to about 60 families. Rod served there as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2000-2002.
As a member of the community, Rod has initiated many different projects to support the village in which he lives . The villagers grow very little of their own food, so Rod started a community garden using raised beds made from discarded tires. He has converted an old school bus to a community center where young children have access to a small library and a computer. He and a host of volunteers teach the local school children how to read and basic computer literacy skills. The bus has a small apartment that houses volunteers that can live rent free while volunteering a few hours a day in the community center.
Recently Rod introduced weaving and sewing classes to help village women build craft skills to create more opportunities for earning income to support their families. High school students must commute to school and the cost is too much for some villagers. Income made by the women from selling the products would help with transpiration costs.
“My weaving skills are very limited although we have made some neat bags” says Rod. The villagers have access to sales venues in Belize City and has formed a relationship with ENACTUS, a marketing club at Texas Women’s University to create markets in the United States. Rod is interested in increasing the skill level of the weavers so that they can create a professional product that the women can produce and market.
Rod finds volunteers through word of mouth and via Workaway, a website that connects volunteers to projects worldwide. It helps if you can speak Spanish, but most villagers can understand some English.
If you enjoy reading stories like these don’t forget to renew your membership to support the work of WARP. 2014 renewal letters are going out this month. WARP is offering a $20 gift membership for new members if payment accompanies your renewal. Consider a WARP membership as part of your holiday gift giving. WARP is the gift that keeps giving!