Hey there friends! My name is Taylor Downey and I’m a freshman Youth Ministry major! I was blessed with the coolest opportunity (along with two other sweet sisters, Kira Odom and Madelynn Yoder) to go on a mission trip to Belize with other OCU students and faculty over winter break, and, suffice to say, it was an experience worth sharing. I’m super excited to share my experiences with you!
We began the week with a “cultural day” that we spent exploring Mayan ruins in the city of San Ignacio. Even though a significant amount of the site remained buried or had been lost to time, what remained was absolutely breathtaking. The massive buildings were right next to the jungle, and, as we explored the pyramids we could hear the soothing squawks of the howler monkey family that was climbing through the trees*.
After the day of fun, our mission group got down to business. We spent the rest of our week building secure window shutters for a local school that had been broken into several times over the past year. The construction was much tougher than I expected, but it felt so rewarding to know that we were making a safe work and learning environment for the students and their teachers! After working at the school in the mornings, we ran a day camp for kids in the nearby neighborhoods each afternoon. Our average turnout for each day was about 60 or more kids, and I think our entire group would agree that being with them for a few hours a day was the highlight of the week. Every child that came to our camp was so smart, so loving, and so much fun--they greatly changed my perspective and definitely impacted my heart.
One of the more sobering things I learned during the week was the rate of domestic violence in Belize. Sixty (60) percent of women report experiencing situations of domestic violence, and considering situations that remain unreported, that number is probably much higher. Alpha Chi has taught me a lot that I didn’t know about domestic violence, which makes that statistic break my heart all the more. The missionaries who live at Camelote Camp (our home for the week) have had after-school classes with some of the local girls to teach them self-worth; their hope is that, when the girls enter relationships in the future, they will recognize if they are being treated badly and know how to leave. My dream after leaving Belize is to go back someday and help equip girls to stand up against domestic violence, but until then, I hope I can continue being an advocate for the voiceless here at home.
So there you have it: the biggest and best highlights from Belize! I’ve barely scratched the surface of the awesome things we did all week, so if you see me around (or Madelynn or Kira) and happen to have an hour or two free, ask us about our mission trip! We have lots of great memories to share!
*Note: the howler monkey sounds are NOT soothing. They sound like angry dinosaurs. It was still cool to hear though.