When Hand in Hand Ministries began its work in Belize over 10 years ago, we were not alone — we had friends who had been helping the people of Belize for many years. Those friends are the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCNs). Their ministry in Belize began in 1975. Over the years, SCNs have worked to empower Belizeans as lay ministers in the Church, and as leaders of the community. They reach out to families living in poverty throughout the country by building homes, providing educational opportunities, and addressing the needs of children and families affected by HIV/AIDS.
The foundation of our relationship with the SCNs is solid. We both want similar outcomes for the people of Belize. It’s because of this strong bond and commitment to the people of Belize that we sought (and seek) funding from Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), in support of our Outreach Center programs in Belize. CHI, which operates the hospitals formerly run by the SCNs, is committed to building healthy communities.
Last year, because of our strong relationship with the SCNs, we received a grant of $107,350 from the Catholic Health Initiatives Mission and Ministry Fund. We used those funds to buy food and medicine for families affected by HIV/AIDS. We were able to purchase a vehicle for Nurse Leah so she can deliver services throughout the Belize district, with hopes of expanding to Dangriga soon. We hired a social worker to help address the social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. These funds have allowed us to provide better services to more people, reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS in Belize.
In March, Patsy O’Toole, Director of Advancement for the SCNs, Diane Jones, Vice President, Healthy Communities, CHI, and Marla Cautilli, Director of Development for HHM, spent a week in Belize. The purpose of the trip was to witness first-hand the impact of the CHI grant.
There were home visits with HIV patients, tours of the Belize City hospital and testing centers and powerful testimonials from women who face daily challenges because of their HIV status. The positive impact of the CHI funding was impressive, but perhaps the greatest outcome of the trip was witnessing the powerful connections between the SCNs, the SCN Associates in Dangriga and Belize City, the HHM staff, the health professionals in Belize, and a newly formed relationship with the Productive Organization for Women in Action (POWA) in Dangriga.
There is still much work to be done to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS in Belize. The stigma and prejudice associated with the disease creates huge challenges. Overcoming those obstacles will never be easy, but with growing collaboration, and increased funding, all things are possible.
Hand in Hand Ministries wishes to thank the SCNs and CHI for their continued support of our mission in Belize. Their financial and spiritual support gives us great hope for the future of the children of Belize.