Karen C.’s Belize Experience

Karen C.
Volunteer Name:Karen C.
Project Attended:Counselling and Social Work Project
Country Attended:Belize
Volunteer Bio:Karen approached us looking for a 6-week volunteer placement in Latin America. She wanted a project where she could use her professional skills to make a difference and immediately we knew that Belize would be the perfect place for her. We have a strong focus on doing our best to match people to projects where their skills can be best utilised. Our coordinator in Belize was delighted to hear Karen’s skill set and knew exactly how to best put her skills to use. She said that many local business owners had been asking for some help and support to get their businesses off the ground and said she would love to set up a 6-week course with local small business owners or those interested in setting up their own business so that Karen could share her expertise with them. We let Karen know that her skill set was very much in demand in Belize and suggested that she design a 6-week course for small business owners to help improve their business. Karen knew it would be a challenge but was excited about this and took the challenge head on. Read on to hear about her experiences…
Why did you want to volunteer? Getting involved in a volunteering programme has always been important to me and something that I’ve wanted to do. At home, I give a monthly monetary contribution to charity, but I wanted to help in a different way, to get closer to understanding how we at home can contribute and to give my time as well as money to a really good cause.
How did you find out about the opportunity in Belize? The most important thing for me about choosing a volunteering programme to get involved with was making sure that I could really help, so to choose a venture that could utilise my skills properly and allow me to make a better impact over a short space of time. I spoke to a number of volunteering agencies in the UK and I attended a couple of open evenings and then I spoke to Kaya Responsible Travel. What really impressed me about Kaya and in particular Mira who was my Placement Manager, was that they were really set on helping me to do just that. They were very clear that they too wanted to match my skills with a relevant programme and I have to say that the service I received from them, from the initial enquiry right through to the emails I still get from them today to check how I’m doing, has been exceptional.
What did you hope the programme would achieve? The aim of the programme was to cover a range of modules and topic areas all centred around general business skills. So modules ranging from Goal setting, understanding your Values, Sales, Marketing, Time Management, Leadership skills, Communication skills, Customer Services skills, Budget planning right through to creating a useable Business Plan. We hoped that with this knowledge it would empower our students by giving them a clear framework to follow and increase their confidence by sharing best practice with them. We really wanted them to feel that they now knew what to do to start up their own successful business.
What have you learned as a result of this trip? So much! From a professional perspective, I was very conscious that I wanted to make all of the theories and research and recommended best practices relevant to the context in Belize. So it’s been a great learning curve for me to make it meaningful and to understand the cultural and political implications and challenges that people may face here.


“I have travelled extensively for quite long periods of time in the past, but volunteering and for me living with a wonderful host family, has allowed me to fully immerse myself properly in the culture and to live the local way of life. Not just seeing a place through the eyes of a tourist. You learn things about yourself that you didn’t realise, you learn things about others; everything is put into perspective and it’s very humbling and life affirming. It is also loads of fun and you get to experience a beautiful place, with lots to see and do and with non-stop sunshine! So I would definitely say to other people who are thinking about volunteering even if it’s just for a week, to just do it. It will make a really big difference and an impact on the community that you volunteer in, and it will make a really big impact on you.”