belize seminar

An Un-Belize-able Experience

Abena (Abby) Mantey ’18—a biology major (pre-medical track) from Accra, Ghana—recently attended the “Health and Healthcare in the Developing World” seminar in Belize. Abby (pictured above, front row, second from right) says, “I have always been interested in healthcare and medicine, so when I first heard about this seminar in Belize, I knew it would be a good way to prepare for my future career.” She shares her experience on The Bell.

Soon after the spring semester ended, I traveled with six other Gordon College students and Dr. Jessica Ventura of the Kinesiology Department to Belize for the second part of our course on missions in the developing world. During our time in Belize, we visited healthcare institutions including hospitals, a medical school and a nonprofit organization called Hillside Healthcare International, and had the opportunity to go on home visits.

There is something special about gaining firsthand experience with a healthcare system that you have only read about. Everything that we learned in class at Gordon took on new meaning as we experienced it for ourselves in Belize, gaining a kind of knowledge that cannot be taught in books or research. It was an eye-opening experience that helped me think about issues from a global perspective.

We paired our hands-on experience with daily discussions about Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains to expand our understanding about the quality of healthcare in developing countries. Other assigned readings helped familiarize us with the culture, history, politics, ethnicities and religions of Belize.

Our time in Belize resonated with me because I come from Ghana, which is a developing country that shares a lot of similarities with Belize in terms of food and the hot, humid weather. (We visited Belize during a very hot time of the year, with temperatures in the high 90s most of the trip). Being able to get a taste of home in a different part of the world made me extremely excited but also slightly homesick.

On our only Sunday in Belize, we worshipped in a Belizean church in Santa Elena in the Cayo District. This trip gave us the chance to meet people who have very unique stories that testify to the awesome love of God in their lives and the kind of work that they do in the Toledo district.

This trip involved a lot of “firsts” for some of us, like drinking coconut water straight from the source, or gnawing on a piece of sugarcane while sucking the juice. The more adventurous ones in our group got to catch a tarantula, hold a scorpion and climb coconut trees. One thing that we all unexpectedly bonded over was being jostled around by the numerous speed bumps on the roads, especially when we didn’t spot them till it was too late to slow down!

One of the highlights of our trip was going to a chocolate festival in the Toledo district, where we had all kinds of chocolate—even spicy! We also got to explore the rich wildlife on a jungle trek and learn about the history of Belize through a visit to the ancient Mayan ruins. Much of what we read about beforehand—the jungles, Mayan ruins, Mennonite farming communities and famous landmarks—came to life before our eyes during our time there. After all, “Seeing is Belize-ing.”

Other members of the trip included: Benjamin Rivers ’17, AnaCarolina Araujo ’18, Caroline Walton ’17, William Deacon ’19, Michelle Satava ’17 and Nicole St. Martin ’17.