For the fifth year in a row, a small group of CJ upperclassmen and adult chaperones spent a week in Belize working and learning from the local community and deepening their own faith.
The journey began on June 7 with the mission in mind to build a cafeteria for Belizean students at Cotton Tree School. The principal told the group that students previously had to sit on the floor of verandahs to eat their lunch.
After arriving safely in Belize, the group noticed only three bags of their luggage made it to the airport.
"We experienced what the people in Belize experience every day, living with bare essentials and serving each other," said Ceyrah Feeney '15 and David Marshall '15.
The students said seeing the villages of Belize was a powerful sight, reminding them of how in America, there are many privileges we sometimes take for granted. They also experienced breathtaking views of the country when they visited Mayan ruins.
On Monday, the group went to Cotton Tree School to begin building the cafeteria. After spending a short amount of time at the school, the group noticed a surprising impact they made on the students just by taking their picture.
"We played with the kids and took lots of pictures," said Caroline Chick '15 and Mikayla Kleinhans '15. "It’s touching and amazing to see just how much the kids love having their pictures taken."
Megan Foley '15 and Ashley Huffman '15 agreed. "We also had the opportunity to play with children at the school during their recesses and lunch time. The kids are very friendly and love playing tag or having their picture taken."
Before going to the school on Tuesday, the CJ students saw what villagers experience to get items from the local town market.
"It is interesting to think that they have to go all the way to a small market full of huts and tents and not just to a Walmart down the street," said Evan Skrobot '16 and Claire Vaughn '16.
During the week, students also saw Dr. Steve Huffman, a CJ parent and chaperone, administer medical treatment at a local clinic. Huffman has made the trip to Belize before, and commented how this trip, "shows CJ students how to live the charismas of the Marianists and Sisters of Notre Dame."
Near the end of the week, the group said they were touched when the school's principal held an assembly to formally thank the group for their service.
"We were blessed to witness a beautiful dance performed by students, and after the ceremony the kids gave us flowers they had picked just for us," said Laura Bullock '15 and Brooke Cartone '16.
English teacher Beth Marshall, who also went on the mission trip, said, "I am touched both by the Belizean people and by the CJ students. The Belizean students, parents, teachers, and administrators are so hard working and joyful. The CJ students have touched my heart with their enthusiasm, their impressive work ethic and their ability to roll with whatever may happen."
Elizabeth Sinnathamby '15 called the trip a "life changing journey" and expressed how difficult it was to leave the Belizean students. "We have told them how beautiful, strong, intelligent, and deserving they are in a way that no one else had before; and despite the pain, I would never change this experience, and neither would any of the fourteen of us."
Chaperone and English teacher Dan Eiser reflected, "this country has a way of seeping into your way of life while you are here. Days grow longer and more relaxed. We forget about the hectic day to day lives that sit back for us in Dayton. In Belize, the people truly focus on short term living and spending each day with their community. I hope that as the students return they remember to focus on community living and being there for their neighbors and loved ones every day."