Here on Ambergris Caye it is a common sight to see locals in the street with money buckets, collecting coins and dollars for fire victims, cancer victims, accident victims. Last year a tour guide whose boat was torn up on the reef as he attempted to rescue some tourists was the beneficiary of a fund raiser to get him back on his feet. It is the island form of insurance, which otherwise does not exist or is out of the reach of ordinary residents.
There are monthly fund raisers for Saga, our version of the Humane Society, as well as fundraisers for the local food bank, athletic teams and individual competitors, AIDS groups, self-improvement groups, and, most certainly, our schools. It is at events like these where Belizeans and expats come together, mingle, share in the fun and camaraderie and make new friendships.
Saga has to be the alpha fund-raiser on the island. If an event occurs on the island and a portion of the proceeds don’t go to Saga, did it really happen? One reason for their ubiquity and popularity is that Saga is good at what it does, tending to the stray dog and cat populations and providing medical services and licensing for pets.
Probably the most fun Saga fund-raiser of the season comes up this month — a 70’s Disco party at the island’s premiere restaurant, Casa Picasso. Saga Night Fever at the Casa will be January 16, 7 – 11 p.m. The $70 BZD ticket includes 3 hours of passed appetizers, Matt Hoy deejaying the 70’s sounds, prizes for best 70’s dress-up, dance competition, instructional hustle dancing by Rose Alcantara, raffles and even a mirrored ball. Cash bar, of course. You can call Sandie at 620-1124 or purchase tickets at Casa Picasso or Pampered Paws. Limited to 80 persons.
“Just a note for all you Islanders,” writes Jackie Feldman of Casa Picasso, “this fundraiser is truly important. Casa Picasso is donating all proceeds except for cost of goods to Saga. $40 from each ticket, will be given back to Saga and 10% of the bar. Matt Hoy is donating his time as well to spin some awesome Disco music.”
Not all fund raisers are events.
Another of our finest local restaurants, the Blue Water Grill offers its guest the opportunity to donate each month to a specific cause and then matches the amount. In this way they have improved local parks, added and updated playground gym sets, donated air conditioning and fans to schools and much much more.
Currently Blue Water is raising thousands of dollars for a badly needed overhaul of the much-used Boca del Rio Park.
Charity really does begin at home and the fund raiser is a legitimate and necessary delivery system for moving wealth from the pockets of reasonably comfortable expats and locals into the greater community where it can do some good. Win-win. The community receives some badly needed financial support and the donors enjoy a really good meal, some entertaining music, a feeling of camaraderie and the warm glow that comes with flexing that spirit of generosity.
Why am I going on like this?
There is a new fund raiser coming up shortly that has captured my attention. I won’t be in the country when it takes place but I’d like to help as best I can, which is of course through this blog.
The organization is a small private school on Turtle Street in south San Pedro, Ambergris Caye Elementary School, ACES to most people. A small school with a lot of spirit and a strong will to thrive. The fund raiser is a mouthful: Ball Gowns & BBQ Charity Gala & Auction, which will be held on Jan. 20 at Estel’s Dine by The Sea, four days after the Saga event.
ACES is a non-denominational, non-profit private school that is open to every family on the island. Among its attractions a low student to teacher ration, 15-to-1, and a rarity in Belize, a highly trained learning disabilities teacher who works with special-needs students.
ACES school pride can be found when ever there is a community parade, and there are lots of community parades in San Pedro. They recently had a float in the Christmas boat parade, for example. The annual parade of schools, the Independence parade, Carnaval (which is coming up very soon) — you can pretty much count on ACES parents showing up in gaily decorated golf carts and school colors injecting major enthusiasm into an already festive situation.
One thing about Belize that some people don’t always grasp is that no education is free, public or private. All students and their families are on the hook for tuition and supplies and other expenses. The country supplies teachers to all.
Since its founding in 2009, ACES has scored near or at the top among the island’s schools on the national PSE (Primary School Exam).
So, this fund raiser is a first of its kind for the school. Depending on its success, a lot a kids who otherwise couldn’t afford a first-rate education will be able to do so. That to me, is well worth spending a night noshing on restaurateur Charles Worthington’s magnificent BBQ ribs at Estel’s Dine by the Sea while gazing on friends and neighbors in slinky gowns and flipflops. Come on guys, put on a gown for the night! Actually men are off the hook and encouraged to wear Hawaiian shirt or white linen with “Panama hat optional.” The coolest thing? One hundred percent of your contribution goes to the school.
You’ve gotta feel good about that.
Tickets are $75 BZD per person and space is limited. Please contact Stephanie at 625-5976 or via email: email@example.com to secure your tickets.
And less than a week later, on Jan. 26, Charles Worthington will sponsor his annual invitational barbecue cook-off at Estel’s, which always has a charitable benefactor. A half-dozen of the finest grill artists will gather and prepare ribs in their own secret sauces. Paying guests get a sample of each and get to vote for their favorite. There is usually a judges prize and a Peoples’ Choice award and rarely do they match up!
Details on the annual cook-off will be coming soon.