Posted by Markus Muhs on Mar 25, 2018
Rotary Club of Edmonton Belize Literacy Project

The Belize Literacy Project For The Kids

For the past four years members of the Rotary Club of Edmonton (downtown), along with a few Rotarians from other clubs, spouses, friends, and Interact students made the trek to south Belize City to build playgrounds.  This is part of district 5370’s long-term commitment to improving literacy and build playgrounds in Belize, along with a partnership with Literacy Without Borders and the Emmanuel Foundation.
Belize City has become like a second home for those of us who just can’t get enough of travelling to a tropical location in February and – instead of sitting on a beach – digging two foot deep post holes in the dirt/clay/gravel, assembling playground equipment, mixing cement (often manually),  and shoveling loads of gravel under the sweltering heat. Friends at the Belize City and Belize Sunrise Rotary clubs have become just as familiar to us as those at other Edmonton clubs.
While many have the preconception that it’s a Spanish speaking country; apart from the taco stand in BTL Park (which is a must-visit each and every year), Belize is officially English speaking and Belize City in particular is English/Kriol speaking (a similar culture to other Commonwealth countries in and around the Caribbean). For that reason, it’s the perfect country to partner up with in this endeavor, which includes installing school libraries, computer aided learning programs, graded readers, and a “Rhymes that Bind” program.
This year we built the largest playground to date at St. John’s Anglican School, something we probably wouldn’t have accomplished without the gas-powered auger which was graciously donated by Select Equipment Rentals. The playground originally stood at a school in Spruce Grove, was disassembled by a Rotaract-led group, then sent down to Belize in a big container (along with another playground and plenty of other stuff like books) by our Rotary district’s international shipping arm, the Emmanuel Foundation. Again, our group of around 15 Canadians was helped by dozens of local volunteers, with at least one Belize Rotarian donating some of his manual laborers from his business.
Two things made the trip extra special. One was the opportunity to distribute soccer jerseys and equipment, donated by Edmonton area soccer clubs, to a throng of overjoyed Belizean youth. Belize school soccer teams, who used to compete barefoot and in their regular street clothes, will now be wearing cleats (except those who insist they play better barefoot) and the jerseys of Edmonton soccer teams, sporting Alberta and Canada flags on them.
We also had the opportunity to help in the classrooms of several Belize schools who had benefitted from the purchase of our graded readers. The graded readers were tremendously appreciated, as well the classrooms were filled with all sorts of books donated by Edmonton area schools and shipped down to Belize in the container alongside the playground(s).
Sometimes the generous donations by corporations of used computer equipment don’t all reach their intended targets in unison. At the Salvation Army Primary School we found that 7 non-functioning computers in their computer room were easily remedied by simply purchasing 7 new USB keyboards (for around $7US a piece at a local electronics store) and replacing the late-1990s PS2 (round plug) keyboards which couldn’t be connected to mid-2000s USB-only Dell computers.
Through building the playgrounds we really get to experience the true international cooperation that Rotary International engenders. Rotarians from multiple Edmonton clubs, Rotary family, Belize Rotarians, Belize Interact students from the three major high schools in Belize City, Belize Rotaracters, even a few others from the local community, all working throughout the day to get the playground done. Each year the entourage from Edmonton also takes part in both weekly meetings of the two Belize City clubs and a dinner, this year hosted in Belize Rotarian Cisco Woods’ Old Belize Museum (where he had recently installed a train ride).
With 4 playgrounds down for our club, along with a big expenditure, together with money from Literacy Without Borders and our global Rotary International grant, we’re already planning the next phases of our project. This includes potentially a fifth playground in 2019, as well as another application for a Rotary International grant to get graded readers and computer-aided learning into yet more schools.
If you would like to join the International Services Committee or learn more about potential volunteer opportunities on future playground builds, please contact Rod Karius at or Markus at At any time you can find out more about the project and view all of our pics and videos at