I started teaching a dance class at the local village school this past October as part of an after-school program. Students were sent home with permission slips and expected to return them before participating. About 60 children were originally interested but I received quite some push-back from parents. Some of the children were needed home to take care of siblings or to help cook dinner. Other parents thought dancing was promiscious. I was even told by some that they wouldn’t let their child participate because I was white. One precious little girl was given permission but was later “lashed” or whipped by her mom because she was dancing in front of boys. (This is hard to avoid since the doors and shutters of the only room available to dance have not been installed yet).
It broke my heart to hear these stories from each child when they desperately wanted to try something new. I truly believe that any activity is going to help these children take interest in life, teach them dedication, as well as keep them out of trouble. At present, many of the village teens are pregnant before 16 yrs, indirectly because education is not free after 12 years of age.
In another situation, I had a swing put up from a tree on our property and 2 of the children (ages 3 and 5) had never swung before. When I pushed them the first few times, they squeeled with delight and shouted for their nearby mom to see them swing and share in this joy. The mom refused to take notice, even though she easily heard the repetitive shouts for attention.
Both of these situations reminded me of a conversation I had with our community president a few months back and he mentioned that many parents in small Belize villages don’t want their children to rise above them… they don’t want better opportunities for their children. As a parent, I can’t think of anything more selfish but at the same time, I know that this only stems from their own fear. Fear of failure? Fear that their chldren will be embarrassed by their poor upbringing?
It will take some time and we will have to take small steps, but I am certain that these children will rise above. They are too smart to NOT rise above!!