Power to Women. We had a very unique cultural experience this morning when we visited the Garifuna School and Museum in Dangriga. The Garifuna are a people of African-Caribbean descent and while the Garifuna make up 30% of the population of Belize, the culture, music and language are being lost to English and North American culture. Phyllis Taremaro, the founder of the school and museum welcomed us and then the children impressed us with cultural songs, the national anthem and morning prayers before heading to class. We were able to tour the humble classrooms and experience the learning environment. This school is one of the rare schools which teaches the Garifuna language.
We took a tour of the Garifuna museum where we learned the history, the tragedies and the triumphs of their culture and the country of Belize. We were then treated to a wonderful display of traditional music and dance. There were four female dancers, one singer, two male drummers and one maraca player. One of the dancers was 69 years of age and still had more moves than any of us!
Phyllis was so proud to show us her culture and so humble to talk of her accomplishments as a community leader. She then took us on a tour of the community, showing us a drum maker and a cassava bread bakery, presently led by young women. Phyllis even invited us to her home where she served us a traditional Garifuna meal. While inside her house we noticed, she had won the 2010 leadership award for women in Belize.
Marie Sharp is also a leader in her community. She started as an executive secretary at the citrus processing plant, which we visited on Monday, only to have her life change when she inherited some farm land. Failing to find a market for her high value crop of habañero peppers, Marie began filling up pails with her home blender in her garage with the product of her good idea. She started the multi-million dollar company she is still directing today. At 71 years old, Marie Sharp has been through tough times and great opportunities with her company but managed to make it one a pride of Belize. Marie Sharp’s hot sauce and products are now distributed around the world, in dozens of countries, including Canada, and is the number one hot sauce across Belize! In fact, her sauce was on almost every table we sat at for the last ten days. To this day, Marie still designs new recipes from her humble factory but now stores her peppers in several huge tanks. Three containers were waiting to be filled for a Japanese order; they were just waiting for bottles to fill them with her special concoction of habañero – so delicious! Marie told us how hard work is the key to success and sure told us what she thinks of sitting down in her factory!
Truly this day showed us the power of women and educational involvement can do for a community.
Andrew Chisholm, Matt Langford, Michel-Antoine Renaud – AALP Class 13