As many "Life's a Beach" readers well know, Rob and I have spent a fair amount of time in Belize. We have explored a vast majority of the mainland and have great pals on Ambergris Caye who we keep in touch with and visit faithfully once or twice a year. On one of my first visits to the island, I reached out and made plans to meet Laurie Norton, better known in the blog-o-sphere as "Tacogirl". We have similar interests and hit it off immediately. During that visit, Laurie brought me to visit Holy Cross Anglican School located north of San Pedro in an area known as San Mateo. Words are really not sufficient to describe the level of poverty in San Mateo. You really need to see it, smell it, walk across the makeshift bridges elevated just inches over a swamp of sewage and waste to take it all in properly. A few years back, I wrote an article for Blog Action Day highlighting the plight of the residents of this "neighborhood". It will give you a good overview of the situation but even the pictures do not tell the whole story. Since that day, Holy Cross School, its administrators, teachers, volunteers and supporters have held a place in my heart.

San Mateo  San Mateo

This week I learned that the ambitious Direct Abundance San Mateo Sanitation Project planned for the school had ground to a halt. The letter below from Founder and Board Member Heather Zwicker details the foundation's immediate need for a specialist in wastewater garden systems. Laurie and I are hoping that within our significant network, we can set "six degrees of separation" into high gear and find someone to assist with this exciting project.


Hi tacogirl!

I hope you are awesome and the beautiful island of Ambergris Caye is keeping everyone healthy and happy.

I just wanted to drop you a line and give you an update on our project for San Mateo. As I have mentioned to you before the challenges and obstacles are always unexpected. As you know, we all are volunteers offering our time and expertise to help the community of San Mateo. Sometimes our own lives get in the way of getting things done in a short timeline, but never fear, we are always taking steps forward, even when no one is looking! And planning for success in a project can slow you down when trying to anticipate complications that you never really if they will or will not come up.

This project has been like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Every piece is as important as the other, each relying on the togetherness to make it complete. I can see the picture is almost finished however we need some more help.

I have managed to collect all the information on how the system will work and the theories why, I have information of how to build the system, the rough concept drawings are done, someone is working on the education piece for the community as we speak. I have the first recipient ready to begin the build and even a group of volunteers from United Methodist Church of Johnstown collecting donations and willing to help build the first system.  Again, I am grateful to you for making the introduction the make this possible. As you recall earlier in the year two volunteer contacted us to help but we were unable to make it possible at that time. Your readers are awesome! They truly love the island you call home. It appears everyone want to do their part!

Here is the missing piece; I need someone who has experience with building wastewater gardens to help do the building plans for the first system. I have an engineer in Belize City who is willing to consult with the project and a few feelers out myself, but so far, no luck. The engineer that we have been working with up to this point is suddenly, due to personal reasons, unable to move the project to completion. This was devastating new for us but he has no problem with me sharing the information he has given me to complete the project. Maybe you know someone who can help with this? Can you ask around for me? I know there are people out there who can come together with their knowledge and experience to change this community for the better! It only takes a moment in time to change a life forever!

As always, With Deepest Gratitude and Warmest Regards,

Wastewater Garden System 

If anyone reading this has experience with wastewater gardens or knows someone who might know someone, please pass this letter along. You may contact Laurie or Heather through their websites or email me at michelekinnon[at] and I will make the proper introductions.