Believing in Belize: The Albert and Maria Scholarship Fund

Carly Comparato

“You have beautiful bracelets,” I told Kaydee. “Thank you,”she replied with a faint accent, “A volunteer gave me this one a few years ago”. She pointed to a braided, string bracelet. I smiled back at her, wondering where she got the others. There were no stores around here, but I didn’t ask, worried that she would have trouble replying. I did not want to make her nervous. I was trying to break the ice. She continued writing abouther hobbies, a concept new to her and her classmates. “Drawing” she wrote under hobbies. Then, “playing games”. Then, “helping people”. “Soccer” was placed in the dislikes list. I smiled, looking over her shoulder. “I’m not a huge fan of soccer either,” I said. She nodded. Joshua was having trouble with his “hobbies” list. He stared at the blank page. His eyes looked empty, but focused. He crinkled his forehead and then laid his head,crowned with sweat, on his hands. I put my hand on his shoulder. His shirt was ripped by the elbow.“ Joshua, don’t worry. This isn’t a test. What do you like to do?” I asked him. The room was getting hotter and my full length skirt was sticking to my thighs. “What would the teachers do in the hot season?” I thought to myself, fanning my neck with the activity book. Joshua didn’t answer my hobbies question. “Do you like to draw?” He shrugged. “Do you like to play soccer?” He smiled. “Great!” I said with extra enthusiasm. I spelled out s-o-c-c-e-r for him and he carefully wrote it in the hobbies column. I peeked over my shoulder at Kaydee’s paper. She had written “Carly and Kaydee, best friends forever,” at the top of her finished page. I smiled and teared up. I reached over with my pencil and drew a heart next to her words. She smiled and then began to draw some flowers. The next day, Kaydee had a different bracelet on. “You are very stylish, Kaydee! I love this bracelet too!” The bracelets did not look expensive, like you could buy them for a dollar in the mall, but she seemed proud to wear them. She pulled one off her small wrist and reached for my hand. She stretched the thin blue rubber over my wrist and smiled. “Kaydee! Thank you so much, but you don’t have to give me this!” She refused to take it back. “Thank you very much, Kaydee. I will wear this everyday”. After three weeks, I had to leave these students in Belize. When our bus pulled away on the last day, my friends and I sobbed, staring out the back window to watch our students turn and walk back to their tiny homes. We would never see them again. We didn’t know what their lives will bring. Many deserving students would not be able to go to high school. Unlike in the U.S., public high school in Belize is very expensive. Many families cannot afford it, so the students drop out after middle school and work in the village with their families. This was saddening to my friends and me. We saw the one hundred students with whom we worked grow and learn even in three short weeks. If they were ensured a complete school experience, they would be able to do wonderful things in this world. Therefore, my group decided to make a scholarship fund, The Albert and Maria Fund, to send two students, a boy and a girl, yearly, to high school. The two students picked each year would be leaders in their class. They would be kind, hard-working students who have a drive to learn and make a difference. Now, my group is working on fundraising. We are trying to spread awareness about The Albert and Maria Fund, our scholarship. In this holiday season of giving, I encourage you to help spread the word about this fund and if you are able, donate! It would mean a lot to me and to students like Kaydee and Joshua. By donating even a dollar, you are helping send a student from Belize to high school. If given an education, these students will have many more opportunities. Please help if you can by contacting me. The students and I will be eternally grateful. Thank you.

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