Sister Elizabeth Sánchez, D.C., (Province of Mexico) has been living in St. Louis, Missouri, with the Daughters of the Province of St. Louise, USA, while learning English. She shares about her current mission in Belize, Central America.
On October 24, 2013, the Provinces of Mexico and Central America assumed the opening of the mission in Belize for the service of the Integral Evangelization of the parish of the Sacred Heart, based in Dangriga, Stann Creek District. In June 2016, the Province of Ecuador joined this Project, forming an interprovincial community. We are currently four sisters: one from Ecuador, one from Nicaragua and two from Mexico.
Belize is bordered to the north by Mexico and the south west by Guatemala; its capital is Belmopan, but the most important city is the city of Belize. The system of government is parliamentary. Belize became independent from England on September 21, 1981. It has six districts: Belize, El Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, and Toledo.
The economy is mainly based on agriculture. Exports are sugar cane, citrus, bananas and seafood, principally shrimp. The tourist sector has a great importance in its economic income. Belize is burdened with external debt. It is estimated that 33.5% of its population lives in poverty.
The official language is English; there are other languages spoken–Spanish, Q’eqchi’ and Garifuna. Its population is composed by: mestizos, Mayans, Garifunas, Hispanics, Indians, and Chinese. Basic education covers eight grades and is required. In Belize, most of these schools are supported by Catholic parishes.
The Daughters of Charity community is in the village of San Juan, Stann Creek District, near banana and orange plantations where people who immigrate to Belize work. The Redemptorist Fathers serve the northern part of the parish and the Daughters of Charity the southern area that includes 22 communities and 12 parish schools.
In the south, we find this reality:
- Multilingual and pluricultural with Hispanic presence, Garifuna and Q’uetchi’.
- A migrant population that comes mostly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, with low economic resources and with few job opportunities. Some of these residents came to Belize fleeing from the violence in their home countries.
- Need for accompaniment and formation of leaders, catechists, youth, ministers, lay celebrants, etc.
- Long hours of work at $12 a day on a plantation.
- Lack of other job opportunities.
- Overcrowded school and drop outs.
- Minimal access to health care for immigrants.
- Family disintegration due to multiple partners, drug addiction and violence.
- Little or no knowledge of their labor, social and healthcare rights.
- Human trafficking.
- Proliferation of sects.
Currently the four sisters are involved in the parish, accompanying each parish group that has been formed and strengthening them in these years of the mission. Within the visits to each village, we share their festivals, know their customs, and enjoy the richness of being multicultural populations. Each village has a specific way of relating to God; the characteristic that unites them all is prayer and meetings with his word through Sacred Scripture.
Another area of service for us includes the schools, which present themselves as a great opportunity for evangelization. Thus, our service has gradually expanded to respond to calls from the poor, such as our work with children. We have discovered new forms of poverty so we have chosen to support children and adolescents from the schools, teaching of religion, support in liturgical holidays, counseling, training on trafficking in persons, thus preventing children and young people from being victims of this crime.
We seek to be a community–dynamic, creative and flexible–that allows us to respond to the complex reality that Belize lives. (Major challenges in the country of Belize: economy, migration, health, education, work [labor]).
From the calls of the last General Assembly we have chosen to be a Province moving to the margins and getting closer to the poor. One of our challenges as a community is to learn the official language of the country, English! I have begun.
The Charity of Crucified Jesus Christ urges us to serve our brethren in Belize.