Dr. Michael Balick of the New York Botanical Garden.
The Belize Ethnobotany Project (BEP) was founded in 1987 by Rosita Arvigo and Dr. Michael Balick, Associate Director of the New York Botanical Garden, and at the time, Director of The Institute of Economic Botany. The BEP joined efforts with the National Cancer Institute to collect medicinal plants in Belize to be tested in Washington, DC for potential anti-cancer and anti-AIDS activity. The team of researchers, scientists, herbalists and bush doctors collected nearly three thousand plants from all districts of Belize. From 1991-1994, the BEP held five regional and two national Traditional Healers’ Conferences in Belize that were attended by over five hundred bush doctors, midwives, herb collectors, massage therapists, bone setters, snake doctors and granny healers. During the individual break-out sessions healers came together for the first time to discuss issues of vital importance to them.
Ethnobotany In Belize
MISSION STATEMENT – Our goal is the conservation of medicinal plants and the preservation of traditional healing in Belize. We believe that the most important aspect of that work at this time in the evolution of our planet is to train and educate children about plants and healing.
Ix Chel Tropical Research Center Projects
BUSH MEDICINE CAMP
Each year for the past fourteen years, this wonderful summer program has been sponsored in part by a generous grant from the Gildea Family Foundation of the United States. Dr. Ray Gildea Sr. who believed strongly in the Man and the Land, left a foundation for his four children to donate to world-wide projects that promote environmental programs. Other donations to BMC and our continuing programs in Belize are supported by tithes from teachers and students of Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy.
“TAKE THE CHILDREN AS THOUGH THEY WERE YOUR OWN. TRAIN THEM AND TEACH THEM TO HELP EACH OTHER.” – Don Elijio Panti to Rosita Arvigo
THE AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM
From 2005 until 2012 ICTRF sponsored an after school program for twenty-four children ages seven to fourteen. Children arrived after school hours to receive help with homework , school reports and studies. They were assisted by a staff of three paid tutors. After homework was completed, they were given a snack and allowed to play games, sing songs and run around the yard chasing each other. That program does not now function as we are looking at new ways to serve the community of Santa Elena, San Ignacio through more children’s programs.
LEARN TO GROW SCHOOL GARDEN PROJECT
In 2013 we established a 10×30 foot vegetable and herb garden in the primary school of SANTA Elena, Cayo District in Belize. It is tended, watered and enjoyed by the 5th grade class of Ms Fernandez.
“I tell those boys, Miss Rosita, ‘You can’t water those plants three times a day!’ ”
ETHNOBOTANY IN THE CLASSROOM
Salome Oliver, assistant to Dr. Arvigo for the past seven years, now spends three days of each week teaching grammar school children at Sta Elena Primary School in Cayo District, Belize about the edible, useful and medicinal plants growing in their back yards, neighborhoods or in the nearby rainforest. The local school district has included these half-hour sessions in their Social Studies and has made them a regular part of the curriculum.
USEFUL PLANTS OF BELIZE EXHIBITS
Six annual exhibits on edible, medicinal and useful plants of back yards and wilderness were conducted in San Ignacio, Cayo District. Two thousand school children attended the exhibits over a five day period. Exhibits included Plants for Healing, Carpentry, Basket Weaving, House Construction, Musical Instruments and Plkant-Based Professions. Traditional healers were on hand to tell old-time stories, myths and to share jungle lore.
MY BACKYARD GARDEN PLANTS
Local schools participated in three annual contests to see which sixth grade class could produce the best book of medicinal plants that grow in back yards. The students had to make colored illustrations of the plants, interview elders about their uses in traditional medicine, produce a book cover, index, contents page and acknowledgments. The prize for the school varied from a new computer, a copy machine or a charge account at a local school supply store.
Each year ICTRF rewards two scholarships to worthy high school or university students. Abdel Cowo, now 22, was able to complete his degree in secondary education on a four year scholarship with Ix Chel Tropical Research Foundation. Shahira Muschamp, a young mother of a two year old son, was awarded a scholarship to complete her college education. She will graduate in 2013. Sonia Coho, a Kekchi Maya young woman was awarded a scholarship in 2013 to persue a bachelor’s degree in nursing sciences in Belize City. She will complete her studies in 2014.
TREE OF LIFE NEWSLETTER
An occasional (about two times a year if the creek don’t rise and there is no hurricane) newsletter of ICTRF activities full of traditional home remedies. To subscribe for only $30 a year write to Dr. Rosita Arvigo, Ix Chel Tropical Research, Sta Elena, Cayo District, Belize , Central America. The newsletter will soon be offered on line as well.