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Volunteer in Belize with Community-Based Cornerstone

After a trip to Ecuador, I had wanted to return to Central or South America to volunteer. But my Spanish was only vaguely coherent and I wanted to begin my work as soon as possible. Belize turned out to offer the perfect answer. English is the official language of the country, but it is home to an elaborate ethnic mixture. There are some opportunities to practice Spanish as well as experience the melodic Creole that is truly the common language of Belizean people.

Appropriately, I found out about Cornerstone Foundation through the search engine idealist.org. The organization’s projects and programs offered flexibility, variety, and community interaction. Though I participated as a volunteer with the Women’s Program, I also had chances to teach English, help out in HIV/AIDS awareness events, assist in the lunch program for local school children, and publish newsletters for the organization.

The more I worked with Cornerstone, the more I felt satisfied with its mission. Rather than hold themselves responsible for creating programs in the community, volunteers are encouraged to act as resources and use the Cornerstone office as a starting point in their efforts. Often, government offices, health clinics, and women’s groups are already established and are in need of support to increase their effectiveness.

Cornerstone Foundation, though founded by an American woman, is, in many ways, a Belizean organization. Its roots are local and it was created in the community it is now serving. Like the country itself, the organization is still finding its identity. Volunteers should be prepared to take initiative and be proactive in finding their place as resources for the community. Cornerstone has many far-reaching visions, but volunteers are encouraged to shape their own experience and be responsible for making a meaningful contribution.

Volunteering with Cornerstone offers valuable opportunities to develop skills in project management and community development but it also offers a perspective on life in Belize. Belize only achieved its independence from England a mere 24 years ago and has been reshaping itself ever since. It has a small, highly diverse population that is searching for its own national community amidst development, westernization, and blended cultural traditions. Because of the people I worked with I was privileged to get a glimpse of this evolving community and greatly enrich my travels.

For More Info on the Cornerstone Foundation

  • Website: www.cornerstonefoundationbelize.org.
  • Address: PO Box 242, 90 Burns Avenue, San Ignacio, Cayo District, Belize, Central America.
  • Highlights:
    • Volunteer opportunities in Women’s Development, HIV/AIDS outreach, environmental education, youth programs, teaching English, and working with individuals with developmental disabilities.
    • Flexible terms of service, from 3-week programs to longer-term projects.
    • In return for program fees volunteers are provided with housing and one meal a day, five days a week as well as resources to carry out projects.
    • Located in San Ignacio, Belize, a beautiful town in a river valley near the Guatemalan border.