Three interns from EARTH University in Costa Rica recently completed their internships with us. Before they returned to EARTH, we asked them to reflect on their internship experience. Today, we're featuring Alexis Mejía (from Ecuador) who interned with us in Belize. Stay tuned to hear about the other two incredible interns AND the incredible work they produced.
What were the first words out of your mouth this morning?
I said “Good morning” to Norma, the owner of the house where I stay in Punta Gorda (my Belizean Mom).
What’s the first thing you ate today?
Milk, bread, and eggs.
What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you hear “Sustainable Harvest International”?
Who’s the first person at Sustainable Harvest that you met?
Ricardo Romero (Program Impact Officer).
What’s been the best part of your internship?
Sharing with families, cultural exchange, and adapting to a new lifestyle in a new country.
Tell us about some of the farmers you met.
Most of the farmers I met seem to be hard working people. Many of them have to feed more than five family members every day. They’re true fighters. I really admire the way they live. I want to tell you about two different families in particular.
Mateo Pan lives in San Pablo, Belize, in a home made of palm and wood, with his wife and five children. A typical day in this household starts at 5:30am when Mateo’s wife Dominga prepares breakfast for everyone. Normally it’s corn tortillas, which she prepares quickly because she has a lot of experience.
At 6am, both Mateo and Dominga go to work on a commercial banana plantation, carrying their work boots and equipment. At 8am, the kids head to school, dressed in their green school uniforms.
Around 4pm, Mateo and Dominga come back from the plantation and take care of chores around the house. Mateo weeds with a machete while Dominga goes to the river to wash clothes (which she also does incredibly fast). At 7pm, they head off to church, Dominga wearing a colorful Mayan outfit. By 8pm, it’s finally time for the family to rest.
What I admire about Mateo and Dominga’s family is that they're incredibly hardworking but they also enjoy life. They enjoy their surroundings—the river, the forest, animals, etc.
Another family I got to know is Alfonso Makin and Tomasa. Their charisma and kindness impressed me right away. They live in Santa Teresa, Belize, very close to the river. They have just one son. He’s eight and enjoys working in the field with his parents. I spent one Saturday with them, working on their plot. Alfonso invited me to come harvest cohune (palm) leaves for building a pigpen.
I arrived at 6am and found Alfonso already working with his machete around the house. We went to the plantation with his son while Tomasa stayed at home, preparing tortillas for our lunch. Alfonso’s attitude was positive throughout the day. He set out with a goal of cutting 400 leaves and was fully prepared with his work boots, protective trousers, and a very sharp machete. He showed me how to cut leaves, which his son dragged into piles for us to carry back.
By midday we finished. Though we didn’t reach our goal of cutting 400 leaves, we were really satisfied with our work. Alfonso cut the largest palm heart and gave it to me, telling me it would be our lunch. Several weeks later I returned to their house and saw that he had finished the pigpen. I admire his perseverance.
How will you apply what you learned in the future?
I plan to apply the knowledge I gained through interning with Sustainable Harvest International in my country (Ecuador), promoting development in rural communities and bringing new and innovative ideas on how to generate positive change.
We're grateful to have interns like Alexis supporting our work! Want to learn more about Alexis? Check out this blog piece.