Senior Katie Anselmi reflects on her experience in Belize for service trips.
By: Olivia Baptiste ‘21
Senior, Katie Anselmi traveled to the only English-speaking nation in Central America, Belize, for her senior year service project, and had “the best Birthday ever,” as she turned 18 while there.
Anselmi had always wanted to go to Belize as she watched all the seniors before her go to Belize and come back. She knew that “it would be such a good experience.” She wanted to work with kids, and knew that Belize would be the best opportunity for her to do this.
She was worried about the food, so she got all her shots, but this was one of the easier of her fears to combat. In addition, she feared that there was going to be too much of a culture shock up to the point where she could not relate to the Beleazians. This turned out to not be an issue as Belize is very Americanized, but also because the people were very welcoming.
Anselmi, along with 18 other senior girls would wake up at what they guessed to be 7 a.m. every morning, since they did not have technology to tell them the time. They would then have breakfast, and walk to St. Peter Claver school where they would serve as teacher’s aids. Katie worked with “infant one”, the class of four or five years olds, who would start school 8:30 a.m., stop at 11:30 a.m. for “siesta time” and resume school from 1 o’clock to 2:30 p.m. Afterwards, they would eat dinner, play cards, and enjoy the beauty of Belize.
One day in class, Anselmi was teaching the class about greater than and less than signs. A boy sitting in the back of classroom, who learned a little slower than the other children, understood it when she taught it.
“It is an amazing experience watching something click with a kid for the first time. I can’t really describe it, it is amazing,” said Anselmi.
Belize was filled with a lot of hard work, but also many fun times which included snorkeling on their Saturday off, a popular activity of Belize visitors due to its beautiful Caribbean waters. A fun day in the gorgeous waters had some unplanned results as Katie says, “the sun showed its dominance on it.” Let’s just say for the next three days, cold showers were a real blessing.
Mrs. Arru, the teacher of the classroom Katie helped in, inspired her the most due to her immense patience and compassion. Not only was this teacher an inspiration, but the culture of the Belizeans was eye opening as they, “See themselves as blessed beyond measure. They don’t have all the material things we have in the United States, but they have so much love.”
Katie found Belize tiring because of the long days helping at school, but also at the same time relaxing due to the beautiful scenery and the nature of the people.
“[The Belizeans] are very warm and open, and they are such a thankful society, the Belizeans are so thankful” Anselmi stateS. “[They] were not stressed and they had enough time to just sit back and see all the good things they had, time to really appreciate the good things and the nature around them. Verse here we feel like we have to be busy, the Belizeans don’t feel like they have to be busy all the time,” Anselmi says.
In Belize, Anselmi not only grew up physically by becoming 18, but she also grew by learning to trust in herself and her abilities.
Through her experience, Anselmi was able to see herself differently, but also others in a new light, saying, “the poor don’t really want things, they want you to be with them.” Anselmi elaborates, “Just seeing that and seeing how poverty comes in a lot of different forms, and how we are just looking for love in the end.”
Katie Anselmi would highly recommend this trip to anyone who wants to work with kids, and offers some words of advice-be open.
“Be open with the people you go with. It’s really easy to be open with people that you don’t know, but you probably will have preconceptions about the girls and the teachers you are going with. You have to leave those at the airport as well, and let the people you go with surprise you.”
Needless to say, this will be a birthday Anselmi will never forget, and will forever carry with her through the new views, friendships, a love she gained on the Belize Service Trip.