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Apr 11, 2013

Houston-based autism support group shares with Stella Maris

The run-of-the-mill cruise ship tourists get a tour to a popular destination or lounge around the village and get their hair braided or a drink of a local brew. But on occasion, there are those tourists whose presence are valued and felt way more than the few dollars they add to the economy. And that is why there was a celebratory mood at Stella Maris School this morning. A group of families from the U.S. who arrived on one of the cruise ships, gave a donation and their friendship to the school. The families have children that are autistic and they wanted to meet and share with Belizeans. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.


Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Sixteen families of the Blue Skies Over Autism support group donated school supplies and autism related materials to the Stella Maris School. Peace Corps Volunteer Ellen Mckamey has been working for two years with parents and teachers in the school’s autism class.


Ellen Mckamey

Ellen Mckamey, Peace Corps Volunteer

“We have an Autism in Belize Facebook page that was designed by Yadira Williams and this month is autism awareness month so Alan had contacted Yadira through her Facebook page and then she had forwarded the email on to me so that we can stay in contact and hopefully set a big event up for Autism Awareness Month.”


The Blue Skies Over Autism President contacted the school via the school’s Facebook’s page.


Alan Fowler

Alan Fowler, President, Blue Skies Over Autism   

“We’re a support group for families living primarily in Houston; we have a few people from Florida, El Paso, some from around Dallas. But we do fundraiser and things like that to get a sense of support among family because one thing that Autism does, it isolates the families from society. By doing the fundraisers what we do is have events such as garage sale or a benefit or things like that and the families work to raise money. This is the fifth year we have done it. We got sixteen families on this cruise. We did a little better this year and one of the things we wanted to do was to reach out to other people that we felt were more isolated than we are. So we decided to contact the folks on one of these stops, here in Belize.”


While on their day trip to Belize, the Guidry’s family donated five US dollars to the school on behalf of Matthew Junior.


Matthew Guidry

Matthew Guidry, Father of Matthew Jr.

“We’re from Houston, Texas. We have been part of this Autism on the Seas, Blue Skies Over Autism for the past two years; this is our second cruise. We heard about the school in Belize through Alan Fowler and he started collected donations and items so that we can bring them to the kids that might not have that around us. We hopefully they’ll get the benefit of what we can bring and improve the school.”


Jose Sanchez

“And for Matthew, what is the experience like for him?”


Matthew Guidry

“He’s ready to go back to the ship, but he doesn’t get to see what it’s like to struggle a bit and that is part of these kids everyday experience. So I don’t know how he’s receiving it or whether it means anything to him now, but hopefully when he gets home, he’ll understand how good he’s got it.”


Jose Sanchez

Gigi Guidry

“What about you, Gigi? What is it like seeing from the Belizean perspective, seeing the kids here?”


Gigi Guidry, Sister of Matthew Jr.

“It’s a little bit different from when I’ve been at Matthew’s class or when I am usually at my school. So I don’t really see how difficult it is for them.”


Ana Estrela, Mother of Jacob Estrela

“We met with the doctors and scientists and geneticists and it’s very helpful and encouraging to meet with the other families. The information that we get from other families is more valuable than we can get from a doctor because there is not a lot of research on this particular syndrome. So Jacob’s autism is secondary to this syndrome and it’s been a wonderful journey.”


Ana Estrela

Jose Sanchez

“Sharing with the people here, what has it been like so far?”


Ana Estrela

“It’s been emotional, a very wonderful feeling to be able to help and hopefully we will continue to help the school. It’s hard to see kids that don’t have a lot and I know that in the states it’s so hard to get resources and funding for certain things. And it is harder knowing that these kids have less.”


Manny Estrella, Father of Jacob Estrela

Manny Estrella

“It is also wonderful that all these people came today and we are a part of this group because the most important thing that we do in life is to give and we are here to give today.”


Phillipa James

Phillipa James, Mother of Arjen James

“Arjen is presently six years old. He demands more than a hundred percent of my time. It’s very challenging to have a child with autism; his needs are far more greater than a normal child. You have to almost think for them. Talk and keep him under control. Everything attracts them, they want to touch everything. They don’t know what they are doing in the sense that to them certain things that hurts you, they would laugh at that like it is a joke. Meeting these guys, I know that it is not only us here in this part of the world that are facing these problems. It is good to know that your child could grow up and still be a functional part of society in relation to the condition that they are facing. It is good to know that you have support groups and that people who are interested to come, share their experiences, gives you tips and ideas in how to deal with your child in relation to what we are facing here. Here in Belize, we don’t have much and you find that you have to go a lot of place to access little information and little help in dealing with your child in autism.”


Alan Fowler

“Clothing, backpacks, all kinds of autism type tools that they may need in the classrooms and that. I’d like to thank all these wonderful families that took the time to collect all this stuff; to help raise monies to get where we are at today. So proud of you guys.”


Regular folks doing extraordinary things. Amongst the donation was an autographed photo of NASA Astronaut, Tim Kopra, who served aboard the International Space Station. Kopra’s message to the special needs kids of Stella Maris School. His words “Reach for the Stars.” Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.


In addition to the supplies, the school received cheques totaling one thousand two hundred U.S. dollars.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “Houston-based autism support group shares with Stella Maris”

  1. Storm says:

    Autism is a misunderstood and tragic curse, and I empathize with families who struggle with it. I count my blessings that it missed my family, but I have close friends dealing with it. Thanks to these Americans who care and help our families that must cope with autism. Truly good Samaritans!

  2. James Fowler says:

    Maybe they should give donations and money instead of using all the donations to give families vacations on these ships. They take thousands and waste it sending families and their own and extended families on these cruises. Every year it is the same families that get to go and with money left they take extra and pocket. They do these things to look “important” and good and make people give them more! They were involved with Dalace Skye Duvall who was arrested for fraud with a charity in Texas not long ago (look up there are stories) and this Skyeward Bound Ranch Grant etc with aots. They also had complaints of people left in port and fraud in the past years with money they took from families. They are crooked and this only helps them with their fraud.

  3. Paul says:

    As a father of a son with autism, Blue Skies Over Autism helped me give my son, his mother and his brothers a trip on one of those cruise ships that I would never be able to give them. I cannot thank this group enough for the joy my son had that for one whole week, he was allowed to be himself without being criticized, picked on or treated badly by those who do not understand. For those reading this, please overlook some short sighted criticism of people who, while having many struggles of there own, had the heart to help while trying to spend a little time with their own families that they would not usually have. Thank you.

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