4-H around the world: Michigan-Belize connection

Michigan is an integral part of 4-H partnerships and the revival of the Belize 4-H program.

Youth with 4-H and America flags
Photo by D'Anne Rohrer, MSU Extension.

Belize is well known for its Mayan temples and cave tubing, but did you know they also have a National 4-H Youth Development Center? It was revived in 1967 by Hon. David L. McKoy, Minister of Social Services, with technical assistance from Michigan 4-H Youth Development. According to Central Intelligence Agency, Belize wasn’t even an independent country in 1967, they were still having territorial disputes with the UK and Guatemala until their independence in 1981. Guatemala still refused to recognize the new nation until 1992. So imagine a country in turmoil trying to become independent, establishing a 4-H Youth Development Center empowering youth to “Learn to Earn and Save.” A country where the people may be hungry but still wear a smile; a country that counts on tourism for economic stability; a country in the Caribbean where its official language is English; and a country with heavy foreign debt burden, high unemployment, highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates, high crime and drug trade. The youth in Belize need adults who see the value in 4-H Youth Development, International Exchange opportunities and continue receiving support from Michigan 4-H Youth Development.

According to the fifth annual General Meeting for National 4-H Foundation Belize, the 4-H Creed states:

  • I believe in 4-H club work for the opportunity it will give me to become a useful citizen.
  • I believe in the training of my HEAD for the power it will give me to think, plan and to reason.
  • I believe in the training of my HEART for the nobleness it will give me to be kind, sympathetic and true.
  • I believe in the training of my HANDS for the ability it will give me to be helpful, skillful and useful.
  • I believe in the training of my HEALTH for the strength it will give me to enjoy life, to resist disease and to work efficiently.
  • I believe in my county, my community and my world and in my responsibility for their development. In all these things;
  • I believe, and am willing to dedicate my efforts to their fulfillment.
Phillip with host family
Phillip with his host family. "More than just fiends, they are family." Photo courtesy of the Brick family.

As a member of the Michigan 4-H community, let’s continue to support Belize’s 4-H efforts by providing International Exchange opportunities between the two countries, sharing curriculum to support the Belize Motto, “Learn to Earn and Save,” and keep open communication to better understand the efforts we share across the world to “Make the Best Better.”

In 2018, Michigan 4-H International Exchange welcomed a group of four youth and two adult chaperones to our state. The experience was impactful for these young men. Their reflection on the experience is as follows:

  • “Michigan people are very friendly and kind to anybody, even if it is a complete stranger.”
  • “I gained the ability to see a different culture and the life of a farmer, which is a great and wonderful/joyful life.”
  • “I learned how to fish so I can start a fishing program with 4-H youth in Belize.”
  • “I learned how to work with people from a different culture than I am.”
  • “I was humbled by alI the people I met and my host family’s generosity.”

Reflection one year later:

  • “The trip helped me to socialize more with different ethnicities, people that I got to know, and learn new skills that can be used in day-to-day life.”
  • “I believe our host families deserve a great thanks for making us all feel like we belong. They made use comfortable and at a point made us call Michigan home.”
  • “The trip benefits me a lot because of the new experience I had, it made me think and believe in greater opportunities that some of us only dream of and also it help me to enhance my full knowledge and skills.”

To learn more about 4-H in Belize, read “4-H in Belize: UnBelizable!” by Michigan State University Extension.

4-H grows international partnerships. If you would like to learn more about 4-H International Exchange Programs, visit: 4-H International Exchange Programs website or contact me, leadership and civic engagement team member, at drohrer@msu.edu.

If you’re interested in 4-H around the globe, follow the MSU Extension News article series  on “Exploring 4-H around the world” including articles on 4-H in Africa (4-K), 4-H in Coast Rica (4-S) and 4-H St. Croix, Virgin Islands.

Other global educational opportunities can also be found on MSU Extension’s Global and Cultural Education website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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