Features — 14 August 2015 — by Adele Ramos
“Bout time parents  get a break!”

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Aug. 11, 2015–This is the time of the year when parents who have multiple children in school experience a major financial crunch in trying to acquire everything their children need, especially mandatory items such as school uniforms.

This year, Proto Foundation, in association with TEO Co. Ltd., 3R Tutoring Services and Arun Hotchandani, Honorary Consul for India in Belize, is undertaking its first annual back-to-school uniform program, which allows deserving parents to save at least 25% and up to 40% on new school uniforms for their primary and secondary school students.

Mark Usher, founder of Proto Foundation, told us that they opened the program to the public on Monday, June 22, at the Proto Bargain Center, located at booth #4 at the Pound Yard Shopping Complex in Belize City. However, since parents don’t usually have the funds to buy uniforms early in the summer, the demand has only recently picked up.

While Proto has bought some readymade uniforms, now available at the center, they have also hired veteran seamstress, Diana Palacio, with 36 years of sewing experience under her belt, to make uniforms onsite as well.

Although parents can easily go downtown and get most of the uniforms available at the Proto Bargain Center, the unique mission of Proto’s venture is to provide uniforms at a much lower cost, since Proto is not a profit-driven venture.

Discounted-uniforms-for-sal

Usher is outraged at the mark-up charged on the market for school uniforms. He said that they want to provide a break to parents; hence the slogan on their flyer: “Bout time parents get a break!”

He spoke of a scenario where a parent may have 3 to 4 children, which may translate to 15 uniforms at a price tag of several hundred dollars in downtown Belize City.

However, parents who demonstrate a real need are allowed to access Proto’s discount program. They are screened to determine, for example, the number of children in the household, as well as the employment status of parents. This helps to ensure that the well-to-do do not deny those who are really in need of the savings Proto offers.

“Because we are giving such a good price, we require a deposit for the order, so we know there is a commitment on your end,” Usher explained.

He notes that although people have recently gotten to learn of the program through word of mouth, with one parent telling the next, or the flyer being circulated, the response has been steady to date.

“We’re seeing an increase in visits and calls,” Usher told us.

Even though Proto’s Bargain Center currently only has uniforms for primary and secondary schools, Usher told us, “If we get a request for preschool, we will more than likely go and source it…”

Indira Whyte administrates the program, which Usher hopes to repeat next year.

He said that once the uniform sales are complete, as a part of Proto Foundation’s initiative to make it easier for needy parents to get their children back into school for the next academic year, Proto will resume its program at Cinderella Plaza in Belize City, with after-school tutoring and sports training, which have been suspended due to public infrastructure works in the area.

Usher told us that they intend to do the uniform sales program again next year.

He can be contacted at 635-7092, and Whyte can be reached at 629-2507.

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