VIU student builds knowledge and endurance through Belizean field research experience

During the month of July I have learned much more about my own mental and physical endurance. I have begun to envision these characteristics as “muscles” – they seem to improve as I engage them, extending my limitations over time. This means I have become increasingly aware of my own confinements, and how I have far exceeded my previously perceived mental endurance.

While discovering more about my own capabilities, I completed my photo documentation of the built form of Hopkins Village. While traversing all the intersections of the community, I have learned that there is a distinct built-from typology, and evidence of local environmental adaptation (expressions of the built form that produce a structure, which is more resilient to extreme events).

I have found that while the residents of Hopkins are incredibly resilient with respect to extreme events, environmental, and social change – the majority of the built form will require some modification. A fair number of structures are built at ground level – with the intention of building a second floor at a later time. At this time, the second floor usually becomes the “main” dwelling area, yet many of these second levels remain unfinished for prolonged periods (this is usually related to financial constraints). As a result, many of the homes and businesses are at considerable risk to an extreme event in addition to the impacts of Sea Level Rise.

There are many differences between the coastal communities of British Columbia and Belize. Yet Belize is a Commonwealth country with a political structure similar to that of Canada. One might pose a hypothetical consideration where programs here in Canada – that have been employed to improve the resiliency of communities (such as emergency and risk management strategies) – could potentially be used in Belize. However, even though there are similarities in governmental frameworks, a considerable adaptation to one of these planning strategies would be required. This is because Belize is not only ethnically diverse, but it is culturally quite different from Canada. Utilizing a precise “copy” without further research might be a poor decision.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Hopkins. I have learned a great deal about building coastal resiliency in Belize, and – as a result – I have learned a great deal about myself. I look forward to the following months of data analysis and interpretation, where I will begin to develop my recommendations for a disaster management and redevelopment plan with design guidelines for Hopkins Village, Belize.

Darren Lucas, Community Planning, VIU