VIU student relfects on learning about resilience from time in Belize

After a month and a half of getting used to the heat, the rainy season rolled in with thunder and lighting and, well, lots of rain. In Belize the rainy season stretches from mid-May until Fall. While the rain is not falling consistently as it seems to on Vancouver Island, it does pour very hard here periodically. The intense rainfall causes issues such as flooding, which some coastal communities may not have the infrastructure to manage. As well, with the rainy season comes the threat of hurricanes and tropical storms which also create problems with flooding and severe damage.  Many of the coastal communities in Belize have encountered severe devastation, or in some cases complete destruction of their communities as a result of hurricanes. While the National Emergency Management Organization works to manage issues associated with these storms, the country, and more imminently the coast, is extremely vulnerable to extreme weather. 

In coastal village villages such as Sarteneja, the threats of climate change also threaten development. As a former port for the Maya civilization, Sarteneja is known as one of the largest fishing communities in Belize, and its villagers are heavily dependent on the sea for their livelihoods. As well as fishing for lobster, conch and other finfish, the proximity to the sea is key for tourism activities which help the local economy. Climate change, through sea level rise, increased severity of storms, and coastal erosion among others is a major threat to the coastal communities of Belize and one in which the country is working to address.

Through a number of projects, Belize is working towards creating more sustainable development including more adaptive and resilient coastal communities. These themes have to be one of the most important concepts that I have encountered in my time here. While on a larger scale, investigating the situations of a number of coastal communities and their most prominent issues has emphasized the extent to which innovative, sustainable solutions are needed to address issues related to climate change and development. Being adaptive, flexible and resilient is key, and this also holds true on a personal level in which I am also experiencing a new and changing environment.

As someone with limited travel experience, I have often found my time in Belize challenging. Despite this I have learned from this model of being adaptable and resilient and have found that being accepting of new challenges, and finding ways to adapt and be flexible has made it easier to understand the complexities and challenge of living somewhere new, and in particular a developing country. Having a support system, embracing new opportunities, and accepting the differences have helped make my time easier, and I think that Belize is really onto something here.

While the rainy season may mean less tourism activity for Belize, and the weather can threaten the many coastal communities of the country, the rain reminds me of home. Although not on the coast, I took a minute standing in front the Xanantinuch Maya Temple in the rain, to think about the challenges that I have adapted to while here, and how this experience is teaching me resilience, in more ways than one.

- Megan Prosser, VIU Global Studies Student & QE Scholar