Dec 06, 2019

College of the Ozarks students, faculty, and staff serve others in Belize

C of O student with children in Belize
Junior Yaneli Chavez, elementary education major, and senior Kyle Kapella, ecology and field biology major, spend time with Belizean children. Students, faculty, and staff from College of the Ozarks traveled to Belize on a mission trip the week of Nov. 16-23, 2019.

POINT LOOKOUT, MO. — College of the Ozarks students, faculty, and staff spent time serving others in Belize the week of Nov. 16-23, 2019.

The College continued its investment in the rural communities of Belize through educational and discipleship initiatives. The students interacted with the Belizean people through educational instruction, community health outreach, and local church partnerships. 

“I love having the privilege of introducing C of O students to our friends in Belize,” said Dr. Jeff Elliott, professor of psychology and human and social services division chair at C of O. “The college has been building relationships with several pastors, community health workers, teachers, and school administrators in Belize over the past 8 -10 years, and my favorite part is facilitating the ongoing ministry between our students and these Belizean nationals.”

During their time in Belize, C of O students participated in a myriad of activities with the townspeople from the Cayo District, a cultural-economic hub of western Belize. The College’s group taught students at the Billy White Primary School, led community health and training visits, and orchestrated an event to celebrate education.

The community health team directly taught and served over 500 students in the three rural Cayo district villages of San Marcos, Santa Familia, and Bullet Tree Falls. The education team of three members taught Bible lessons to 200 students in the village of Billy White.

In addition to the educational activities, the students, staff, and faculty of C of O participated in community health activities. The students of Billy White Primary School were taught the importance of good hygiene as well as the psychological principles of empathy, kindness, and respect.

 “Although I may have been there to give back to the children, they gave so much more to me,” said Paige Cottrell, senior early childhood education major. “I learned that you can have so much fun and bond with so many people with very little resources. I think being in the school and speaking about how education has given me so many opportunities helped show them the importance of getting an education.”

The weeklong experience encouraged the entire community, especially the six students who came to serve.

“I truly feel that this experience had a greater impact on me than I had on the people we visited,” said Phoenix Constantino, junior video production major. “I came with the expectation that I was going to help people who were less fortunate then me, but they taught me a lot about what serving the Lord looks like and what rejoicing in every circumstance looks like.”

College of the Ozarks selected three Billy White students to receive support in the way of school fees for next year. The criteria for selection was based on students who embodied the academic, cultural, patriotic, Christian, and vocational goals of the College. Education is not free nor paid for completely by the government in Belize, and lack of funds, sometimes as little as $25, can keep students from continuing their education.

“The event that most impacted me was the 2nd Annual Parent’s Night at Billy White Primary School,” said Yaneli Chavez, junior elementary education major. “This event was held to honor three students with scholarships, give back to the parents, and speak of our own educational experiences. It brought me extreme joy to serve the students, parents, and teachers who attended. I also felt thankful and honored to present my speech in Spanish, which allowed the parents to hear my story in their own language.”

The group consisted of the following C of O students, faculty, and staff:

  • Dr. Jeff Elliot, professor of psychology and human and social services division chair
  • Dr. Kerry Moore, associate professor of education
  • Justin Sharp, campus minister
  • Yaneli Chavez, junior elementary education major from Harrisonville, Missouri
  • Anna Collins, junior psychology major from Fordland, Missouri
  • Phoenix Constantino, junior video production major from Topeka, Kansas
  • Paige Cottrell, senior early childhood education major from Steelville, Missouri
  • Kyle Kapella, senior ecology and field biology major from Hollister, Missouri
  • Robert Williams, senior psychology major from Crane, Missouri