Get to Know Participants of the Economic Opportunities Benefit in Belize


The villages in Northern Belize have a very narrow economic basis, mainly focused on the cane sugar industry and sometimes river or sea fishing. To ensure food and economic security, the Red Cross provides small grants and training to community members in a variety of topics.

American Red Cross works together with the Belize Red Cross to diversify sources of income in these communities. Through the pilot Economic Opportunities Benefit program, the Red Cross provided grants to 38 beneficiaries, including seeds and materials for farming, start-up funds and in-kind contributions for small businesses, sowing machines and training, among others.

 “We hope that expanding their range of economic activities will strengthen not only the income of individual community members, but that the diversification of skills and knowledge will make it easier for the entire community to rebound in case of a disaster or an emergency”. – says Fred Hunter Jr., program field supervisor.

Meet the Economic Opportunities Benefit and training participants and learn how they are changing their lives. For more information about the American Red Cross’ work in Latin America and the Caribbean, visit 

Pilomena Cantun, Agriculture Beneficiary

“We just started harvesting some products from the seeds that the Red Cross gave us. We have cilantro, tomatoes, cabbage and other vegetable. We sell some, and also I use it in the meals that I sell at the school. I hope that we continue expanding our business. It helps a lot economically and the products are healthier.”

Isela Jones, Stationary Shop Beneficiary

“I got US$500 worth of stationary to start my shop. At first we had pencils, sharpeners, erasers, small things that are very important for the little kids. Then they were asking for other things, like foam boards and paper, so I expanded to have new products, and a computer for printing. Now the kids can buy a little bit of everything and at a very reasonable price.”

Elvira Gonzalez, Poultry Beneficiary

“I received 100 layer chickens, some food for them and materials to build a fence. We have been learning how to make sure they are healthy, every day we sell eggs and I keep an inventory to know how much I spend on their food and how much I make from the sales. I hope to buy some more chickens soon and make sure that the business keeps going smoothly.”

Roger Gonzalez, Agriculture Beneficiary

“Elvira and I got the grant at the same time, but I received the agriculture one. I have been working the land and now I have some products that I can sell. I make sure to keep a piggy bank of seeds from what I grow, so that I don´t have to buy new ones, and can recycle these ones instead. We have 5 kids, so the business helps us make some savings for the family.”

Ana Cordova, Cake Decoration Beneficiary

“My husband and I want to put up a business, we have the place, but not the funds to get everything up and running yet. I used to be a chef at a Chinese restaurant, but now I am a housewife and a mother of two. I took the pastry and cake decoration training with the Red Cross, and I plan to apply what I learned to the business once we open it. For now, I sell in my neighborhood, people order my cakes or sometimes I go door-to-door.”

Shadir Gonzalez, Hammock Weaving Beneficiary

“I was one of the four you the take classes on hammock-making. Ms. Amarily taught us. I was the only man, but I don´t care. I already finished my first hammock and am very proud of what I made, now I am working on the second one. Maybe I can start selling them and help my family.”

Amarily Teck, Community Leader and Trainer

“I am the leader of the women´s group here in San Victor. We have been very active in working with the Red Cross and there have been a lot of positive changes. Because I am a seamstress, I volunteered to train women to sow and now they got sowing machines so that they can improve their income. I also teach young people how to make hammocks. We got help from the Red Cross to buy materials now they make their own and can sell them. It helps a lot to keep them busy too.

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