Imagine – you arrive in a foreign country with the promise of land… if you are willing to clear and farm it. You and your family work day by day, year by year, clearing trees, learning what the land will produce and growing a community. This may sound like the challenges that the pioneers faced coming to Upper Canada in the 1800’s; however, deep in the jungle of Belize in 1958, this is the challenge that Canadian Mennonite’s faced when they immigrated through Canada and Mexico to the promise of 18,000 acres of farm land in the northern district of Cayo, Belize.
In the picturesque Mennonite community of “Spanish Lookout”, AALP Class 13 toured a mill, layer and broiler operations, and a milo field. We learned how the Mennonites became number one in Belize’s poultry production industry and have made their dairy industry into a leading ice cream processor.
Inspired by Eloy Waight, a community development agent who spoke to AALP about the community of Spanish Lookout, he stated, “If you aren’t learning something every day, you’re moving backwards.” AALP members were able to hear how the Mennonite community brought together heritage, tradition and religion, with their learnings of beginning in a new environment. The farmers and entrepreneurs we met learned from scratch. Applying techniques that their ancestor’s learned in Canada, they worked together as a community through trials and errors, celebrating success and downfalls united. Their history was captured in 2008 when a park was developed as a memorial to the path they have walked and the learnings that have pushed them forward. A series of plaques capture 1-2 highlights of each year. This stands as a testament to future generations that adversity can give a community the opportunity to move forward – a message reflected yesterday in a seemingly parallel way of life at Chaa Creek. Showing that even in the jungle, far removed from Canada, strong leadership can come from behind and from learnings gained through challenges.
Rick Kush, Kathryn Minten, Melanie Williams - AALP Class 13