January 9, 2017
Last September 2016, a team of officers from Ecology Project International (EPI) Belize program, Marine Conservation and Climate Adaptation Project (MCCAP), Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) and Turneffe Atoll Sustainable Association (TASA) visited Chunox St. Viator Vocational High School, to inform our student body about marine conservation and climate change, and their organizations’ work to inform the public and involve youths in their climate change campaign.
Part of this campaign, they explained, would be to have five-day marine ecology and climate change training courses later in order to raise awareness and show ways to deal with the impacts. These courses would be offered at the Turneffe Atoll. Our school was one of those selected by MCCAP.
For this course, the students that were chosen from our school, along with students from ANRI (Agriculture and Natural Resource Institute), would be based at the (UB) University of Belize Marine Station at Calabash Caye. I felt very lucky to be one of the students chosen to take part in this course.
Two courses were conducted. Each course consisted of eight students from Chunox St. Viator Vocational School and eight students from the ANRI in Dangriga, along with two chaperones from each school. These courses were taught by two qualified field-based instructors: – Alonso Mohedano and Emil Grinage – and their assistant, Alex Navarro. The first course was held on November 29th to December 3rd and the second course, from December 3-7th.
Upon reaching the (UB) University of Belize Pier at Belize City, I could feel the excitement of the group meeting new persons from another school and their eagerness to experience for ourselves the wonders of nature. Most of all we were all excited to take part in protecting and conserving our mother nature. It took us about an hour and twenty minutes from the UB Pier to reach Calabash Caye Field Station.
Then the real adventure commenced when we reached Calabash Caye. After settling in, we participated in some games to learn more about our instructors, the students from ANRI and the entire group. After that the instructors took us to the water to make sure that everyone could swim and feel comfortable snorkelling. Those who couldn’t, were taught to do so, using life vests. We also got oriented on the schedule of activities that would take place for the rest of the course.
The following day we woke up early; had a wonderful and delicious breakfast at the field station’s dining room and rested a while before our first class session commenced at 8 a.m.
In our first session we were taught the theory part about what we were going to cover on that specific day; after that we were taken out to do the practical part of the lesson. Each day was filled with lots of learning activities. It was so magnificent to see the corals, fishes and dolphins in their natural habitat. The experience was indescribable. It made me realize that we as humans are so unaware of the consequences of the things we do. It helped me to understand the importance of taking part in activities like this and of helping to protect our eco systems in Belize.
During the time I spent on this course, I managed to learn things I always aspired to do. I learned to dissect a lionfish, monitor the population of lionfish in the reef, calculate their size and record the data under the water. We got to see many types of species of fish! Seeing them in real life really changed my attitude towards appreciating and protecting what we have.
The things I really loved about this trip are meeting new friends from Southern Belize and enjoying lots of cultural exchange activities with them. I also learnt how persons of my same age from a different part of my country resolve their conflicts and enjoyed seeing how devoted they are in learning how to conserve our beautiful Belize.
On the last day of the trip we didn’t want to leave this magical island; everyone wanted to stay. We enjoyed all the lessons, the snorkelling, swimming, good discussions and the group projects. Most of all the food was so delicious; thanks to the Calabash Caye cooks.
I really encourage youths and everyone interested to go out and experience and learn about marine ecology and climate change with EPI Belize, to take advantage of this magnificent opportunity. There is nothing like first-hand experience. Sometimes students don’t learn as much by sitting in a classroom surrounded by four walls; sometimes we have to go the extra mile and experience it on our own so we can learn and really see the meaning of things.
On behalf of my school and those students and teachers who were on this amazing course, I say thanks very much to Dr. Sandra Grant and the staff of MCCAP, as well as Mr. Jerry Enriquez, Mr. Alonso Mohedano, Emil Grinage, Alex Navarro and Corey Constantino of EPI Belize for this wonderful opportunity.
Juan H. Guerrero
Student, St. Viator Vocational High School