Malaspina students assist with community planning in Belize

August 16, 2007 - 2:05am

19 Malaspina University College students have just returned from a five-week geography field project in Belize.

These students are now busy preparing community planning policy reports for Orange Walk town in Belize. The proposed policies will address social, economic and environmental issues. The field research involved extensive interviews with a wide range of people, from substance abusers to the Deputy Prime Minister.

“This field school was a perfect opportunity for students to earn university credits while gaining valuable real-world experience in a developing country,” said Wolfe. “This experience will enhance their learning in other courses and give them experience for their resumes. With 19 students and three faculty working for three weeks, Orange Walk Town received over a year of assistance with its planning.”

The project will produce a compendium of the reports to be used by Orange Walk and other Belizean communities. The students were led by Geography faculty members Larry Wolfe and Pamela Shaw, both professional planners. Victoria Macfarlane, a member of Malaspina’s Psychology department, also assisted.

The idea for the geography field school arose from Dr. Wolfe’s previous work in Belize, where he and Dr. Macfarlane taught at the University of Belize and have subsequently worked as consultants in the country.

“Our students are immersed in the culture and geography of Belize,” said Wolfe.  In addition to Orange Walk, the students also stayed for three days in Bermudian Landing, a Belizean community in the Community Baboon Sanctuary, learning about tropical ecosystems and Caribbean Creole culture. They met howler monkeys in the jungle, canoed on the Belize River and listened to the storytelling of the locals. They also visited the University of Belize and heard lectures on the social, political and cultural life of Belize.

The students also lived for a week in Indian Church Village, an isolated community of 250 residents (the majority of whom are refugees who fled other Central American countries in the 1980’s due to political unrest) where they distributed books to the locals. The team also visited nearby Lamanai archaeological site where they worked as volunteers for the archaeological site and village, and learned about local customs, tourism, and archaeology. The students also visited Caye Caulker for a three-day taste of a Caribbean isle, with swimming, snorkeling, good food and fun.

Subsequent to the field project, Drs. Wolfe and Macfarlane were asked by the University of Belize to facilitate a national workshop on emergency management sponsored by a consortium of Central American universities. This opportunity may lead to another field project in 2008 from the Geography department. Wolfe and Macfarlane met with the coordinator of the National Emergency Management office, who is interested in the Malaspina Geography department’s assistance in information gathering and emergency planning. This may involve other central government agencies as well. Wolfe and Shaw are also interested in organizing a field project for volunteer professionals in Orange Walk to carry the 2007 team’s work forward.

For more information on these projects, please contact Larry Wolfe at (250)754-9181 or

Tags: In the Community

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