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Jun 14, 2005

New tour guides receive diplomas

Story PictureThe march of acronyms continues unabated, although we must admit that the latest to emerge from the alphabet soup–BRITE–is in fact a pretty bright idea. That is, take a group of ambitious people living in an economically depressed area and turn them on to Belize’s biggest industry: tourism. That, at least, is the theory… and for now the new graduates are ready to put their skills to work.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Today was a big day in Belize Rural North as more than fifty men and women, from Sandhill, Biscayne, Crooked Tree, Maskall and villages in between marked the completion of their tour guide training programme.

This morning?s ceremony was held at Altun Ha, one of Belize?s most dramatic reminders of the past, but according to these students, obtaining a tour guide license will make a big difference in their future.

Denise Grinage, Licensed Tour Guide
?I was working at Williamson Industries for about thirteen years.?

Janelle Chanona
?So what made you go from being inside a factory to being outside??

Denise Grinage
?I always wanted to be self-employed, working for myself. And with the programme they teach me to do that, so I have more time for my family and more time for myself. I got time to go out, see different places and know Belize much better.?

Irene Budd, Licensed Tour Guide
?I want to do something with it. I looking forward for better, you know. That?s one of the reasons why I took the course.?

Janelle Chanona
?To make money.?

Irene Budd
?Yes, to make money and to get into the tourism business.?

Jean Tillett, Licensed Tour Guide
?I failed my first class and then I seh again, ?What you doing here? You still continue and you don?t want to do this?? But Mr. Tillett, Mr. Dwight he encourage me and he said, ?Try it, you don?t have to continue if you don?t like it, you can always quit.?

?I really loved our field trips, our field trips was the best part of it. When we did our first trip that kind of give me the encouragement to go on.?

And as part of their first test in the real world, this morning, the newly christened tour guides gave British High Commissioner Alan Jones and his wife their first tour of the site.

In the high season, more than five hundred tourists visit Altun Ha daily. During the slower months, an average of a hundred visitors explore the area. The tour guide course was an initiative of the Belize Rural Institute for Tourism Enhancement (BRITE) and its chairman, Edmund Castro, to bring much needed dollars to the communities in the area.

According to BRITE?s training coordinator, Raymond Shepherd, some sixty students were awarded scholarships through the British High Commission, while another ten were donated by Programme for Belize. Working with technical assistance from the Belize Tourism Board, out of the seventy-six students who signed up, fifty six completed the course.

Raymond Shepherd, Training Coordinator, BRITE
?We ourselves are astonished at the success rate. I believe that, and if you have had the opportunity to visit these students when they were in the classes, you would have been able to sense the commitment and the dedication to learning. The commitment to taking advantage of an opportunity that would benefit them.?

?People from the rural areas, although they are lacking in opportunities, are desirous of making good on any opportunity that presents itself to them. So we want to be the catalyst for bringing programmes that will improve the quality of lives for the people in the area.?

Already, a few of the course participants have gotten jobs with local tour operators and tonight are encouraging fellow villagers to get involved.

Delita Gordon, Gardenia Village
?I would encourage them to get out there. They shouldn?t sit at home waiting around for no one to come and do anything for them. They already finish their course, they should be the one to come out and see how they could get hooked up and get a job.?

Denise Grinage, Sandhill
?Job deh out deh, right. They could go out there and get job and provide for their family instead of give a man a fish for a day, teach him to catch it. I think that?s what BRITE does, teach you to go out there and find help and work and provide for you and your family.?

Riding high on the success of its tour guide programme, BRITE is already planning its next project.

Raymond Shepherd
?One of them includes what we refer to as ?School on Wheels?. We see a need for technical skills to be developed in all of these areas, so we are contemplating offering welding, auto-body repair, small engine repair, and a couple other technical areas. We have also identified the need for assistance to farmers and we have already implemented what we call a ?Land Clearing? programme and this is done at a subsidised cost to the farmer. So people have already registered, that programme is ongoing and the success that we are experiencing is very similar to what we are seeing today.?

The contribution of the British High Commission to the training was approximately thirty thousand dollars.

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