Belize Entrepreneurs Grow thorough Rotary Training
Self Sustaining Initiatives in Belize
The Rotary Club of Cochrane has partnered with the Punta Gorda Rotary Club in Belize on a global grant project focused on strengthening local communities and economies through “study action groups”—training combined with practical experience in managing small projects. Empowering individuals with knowledge and support structures builds the capacity of community leaders for community-led initiatives and work towards developing seed funds for their own small businesses. The Calgary West Rotary club is supporting the initiative with their own Club grant and is looking to augment their contribution of $5,800 to reach the $10,000 budget through partnership with other District 5360 and global Rotary clubs. Funding will go toward providing entrepreneurial training and technical expertise and the provision of tools and supplies needed for women to start small businesses in three villages of Toledo District, Belize with the support of a local NGO implementing partner, Plenty Belize NGO.
As members of the International Committee of the Rotary Club of Cochrane, Judie and Michael Bopp are helping lead this initiative by harnessing their previous experience in executing a similar program in northern Pakistan. This initiative was unique because it focused on building the capacity of local community grassroots people, leaders and community councils through study action groups, mentoring support, and learning by doing through small social and economic projects. These approaches provide critical training and establish community institutions empowering individuals to build businesses and effect change. This is a sustainable model because the change comes from a hand-up rather than a hand-out.
The results of this are far reaching and long lasting well after the initial contribution. The Pakistan initiative, beginning 12 years ago in a handful of villages, has now spread to more than 120 villages in the local area and is currently branching into another region of Pakistan. This growth displays the efficacy of the model and the value to the local community. The program was successful despite challenges including a very remote and high elevation, a non-English speaking community, as well as a major flood which severely impacted the region’s main industry—agriculture. To date, the training courses have educated 11,000 people on topics ranging from savings and loans to conflict transformation. Providing individuals with the skills and information to build their community led to the establishment of over 300 small businesses in north Pakistan. The Belize initiative will employ a similar successful model adapted for local circumstances.
There is a priority within Rotary to complete community needs assessments to direct funding in an impactful and sustainable way. By engaging with the Punta Gorda Rotary Club and the Plenty Belize organization, District 5360 will be better positioned to provide support for real rather than presumed challenges. A challenge specific to the community in Belize is the lack of participation of women in the local community and economy. The colonial history of the country has left people in the villages feeling disenfranchised within the community and has resulted in low levels of community engagement. This initiative will seek to overcome this and remove barriers to their participation by empowering women to participate in and lead the local community and economy through the provision of tools, knowledge, and support driving small business creation. It has been shown elsewhere that the establishment of women’s organizations and training women leaders brings in more capital to households leading to healthier families and stronger economies.
The Belize initiative began with an in-depth community-based, participatory needs assessment carried out in the target communities which directly engaged community leadership and hundreds of grassroots community members. (Report available upon request.)
Four Worlds Centre for Development Learning
Cochrane Alberta, T4C 1A6
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