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Jul 19, 2012

Healthy Living looks back at Rowan Garel’s “Walk Across Belize.”

The daily newscast is often dominated by crime, but the story of a young and heroic blind teenager has captured our attention and captivated the hearts of thousands across the nation. Rowan Garel is an inspiration, who we have been following for some time.  When he climbed atop Victoria Peak last year, we were there to record that amazing feat. This time he set out to walk across Belize. In Healthy Living tonight we look back at the powerful story of the Belizean teenager who is beating all the odds.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

In 2011, Belize was first introduced to the young Rowan Garel when he made a bold decision to conquer Victoria Peak.  It was an incredulous challenge for multiple reasons. At that time Rowan was thirteen and legally blind. But what was most awe-inspiring was that he and his dad took on this challenge as a fundraising event for the Belize Council for the visually impaired. With all things considered, Belizeans and many others became drawn to rowan and the special relationship he had with his dad Joe. When he conquered the monumental feat; they appeared on Channel Five’s Open Your Eyes to dish on their experience.


Joe Garel, Father of Rowan Garel [File: March 29th, 2011 – OYE]

“Usually, we leave at seven and be back by three four in the evening. That day we left at seven-thirty and we got back to camp at nine-thirty that night. And not once, even at his lowest point did he complain. We asked him if you want we could turn back now because it’s a bit much. He was just drained at one point. He wanted to go ahead.”


Rowan Garel

“I felt like saying that, but I didn’t want to make a record that said the first disabled person that tried and didn’t make it.”


At the end of his journey, Rowan was able to secure the funds needed for the camp and the outreach activities for BCVI.  The children were grateful and envisioned Rowan as their own hero.

Then in April of 2012 Rowan launched his latest fundraising initiative. He appeared once again on Open Your Eyes to let us know that for 2012; he preferred flatter terrain and the comfort of asphalt under his feet.


Rowan Garel

Rowan Garel [File: April 18th, 2012 – OYE]

“We’re going to have different, you could stop, you could walk with us and what you can do, you can sponsor miles. So it is going to be in like five days and you can just join us and get sponsors to raise funds. You could sponsor each mile.”


So, Rowan transformed from the climbing ambassador to the walking ambassador for sight.

He began his preparation for the walk even while reaching major milestones like graduating from primary school. A few months later they updated us on their Walk Across Belize training and goals.


Carla Ayres Musa

Carla Ayres Musa, BCVI [File: July 3rd, 2012 – OYE]

“In addition of raising awareness, we are also trying to raise funds to be able to help support all the people in our program. And a lot of times, we are focusing on our summer camp and it costs about thirty thousand dollars to run that summer camp, but it costs about a hundred thousand dollars to run our entire rehab program. We have about twelve hundred people on our blind register. So it’s twelve hundred people that we are providing community based services to.”


With the target set at 100 thousand dollars and sufficient practice time clocked, on Thursday, July twelfth, Rowan began his walk across Belize from the Belize/Guatemala border to Belize City, a whopping ninety-two mile journey.


Rowan Garel (Via Phone on July 12th, 2012)

“I got up like maybe three-thirty in the morning and the walking at the beginning we had about three dozen people.”


Marleni Cuellar

How are you feeling now after almost two hours?”


Rowan Garel

“I feel great. It is relatively cool; there is great breeze right now.”


A cool morning and a quick pace brought Rowan and the rest of the supporting group to Esperanza Village at the end of day one. After those thirteen miles he started the second day with sore feet, but of course he and his dad and others trekked on.


Marleni Cuellar

“Are your legs feeling achy from yesterday or you feel like you can manage again today?”


Rowan Garel (Via Phone on July 13th, 2012)

“Not really my legs; this morning when I woke up my feet were killing me. But not paining anymore.”


Marleni Cuellar

“So where are you now?”


Rowan Garel

“We’re entering United Ville.”


Niall Gillett

“Do you have a lot of people walking with you?”


Rowan Garel

“Umm, not so much.”


Rowan Garel

He continued step by step for the next twenty two miles to the City of Belmopan where after six hours of walking he still managed to sprint to the finish. There, the media was awaiting his arrival and he gave an update on day two.


Rowan Garel

“I am exhausted but I’m happy that this day is done. Sometimes I could just picture like if I’m successful, we could have a really good summer camp and they could get a really good education there. The thing with me is that I’ll only stop if I’m about to collapse. I really didn’t want to stop although my feet were killing me.”


He openly admitted that Walking across Belize was not as easy as he’d thought and it was even more exhausting that his climb to the summit of Victoria Peak. Nonetheless, he carried on. Over the weekend, Rowan completed the third and fourth leg of his journey taking him from Guanacaste Park to the Belize Zoo then on to mile thirteen. From there, he would commence his final walk into the city. We were there to catch him at the start.


Marleni Cuellar [June 16th, 2012 – OYE]

Joe Garel

“What do you have to say about the decision to make this walk?”


Joe Garel

“No regrets, no regrets at all. I mean it showed us how much we can push your body—something I always did and knowing my son how he grew up, I know he’d enjoy the same. You see what he’s been through so far, you’d understand what I am talking about. The first day, it was a breeze, the second day it was pretty tough—twenty-two miles is tough for anybody. He started getting a bit sore and some blisters, chaffing a little and towards the ending of it he had to rest his feet; they were really hurting. But he sprinted in on the second day; I think you saw that.”


Rowan Garel

As for Rowan he focused on the task at hand and reiterated his appeal for funds fro the BCVI.


Rowan Garel

“You wake up and maybe sometimes you feel a little sad or down and in this case, sore. But if you let that overcome you, you’re not getting anywhere. So why complain. I really hope that they understand that I’m not doing this to say, “Oh I’m blind; watch me, I’m better than you, you know.” I’m just doing this as a fundraiser for the BCVI and this has not been easy. It’s been painful, it’s been hard and it’s been exhausting and I hope that they take that into account even if it is just a little dollar that they donate, it still counts.”


Marleni Cuellar

“It’s been worth it though?”


Rowan Garel



In just under four hours, Rowan, his family, his supporters and friends completed the  walk into Belize City.


Rowan Garel [File: July 13th, 2012]

“I’m really glad that it’s over but it was definitely worth it. I mean we had people supporting us, contributing, cheering us on and much support.”


Andrea Polanco

“To see Rowan reach his finish line; achieve his goal.  What did it feel like for you as his father?”


Joe Garel

“It felt good and I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think he could. I knew he could. My wife, on the other hand, she surprised me because she really didn’t work out too much for this and I didn’t think she would’ve done it. I mean Rowan, it’s no doubt, there is some weariness; but he is pretty active.”


As for what’s next? Reporter, Andrea Polanco got this ambitious father-son team to reveal one of their ideas.


Rowan Garel

“We are just looking at possible stuff. My dad wants to do Richardson Peak which is the highest peak, but I really don’t know about that.”


Andrea Polanco

“So now Rowan mentioned Richardson’s Peak?”


Joe Garel

“[laughs] Ih di leak out pon me but we have a number of things tossing around nothing set yet that’s just one idea we’ll see how it goes. You’ll know in due time.”


In the end, fourteen year old Rowan walked a total of ninety-two miles in five consecutive mornings. Despite the heat, the rain, the pain from blisters and weariness of his body he kept on going. Each step pushed through the barriers and stereotypes of persons with disabilities. Having done his part, Rowan is now enjoying the summer camp he helped to fund.


Unfortunately Rowan’s fundraising goal has still not been met. Today the final tally is at a little over 49 thousand dollars. Since Rowan has done his part, you can still do yours by donating to the BCVI at Belize bank Acct number 710-96.

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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1 Response for “Healthy Living looks back at Rowan Garel’s “Walk Across Belize.””

  1. RtaM says:

    Hats off to u Rowan and never give up!

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