Oh my word! I’m so happy to be writing this post! Seven months ago I told you about this Garbutt-Grassroots-Restoration-Project in Monkey River. Click here for the first half of this story, and click here for the previous summer’s saga: Saving Silk Caye (another mission that Eworth led the charge on). Now the project is complete and I’m so pleased to share the results of everyone’s hard work with you. It turned out even better than I could have imagined and we were so fortunate to be invited to join our neighbors this weekend in a trip to Monkey River to celebrate the fulfillment of this task. Here is a recap of the Seawall Celebration on Sunday.
The Tourist Experience
Not only did Eworth Garbutt organize this thing from start to finish, designing the project, procuring the materials and volunteers, giving his boats and captains and time and talent, but he also invited everyone on a free wildlife tour as part of the day’s celebrations. I was stoked because the Monkey River Tour is one of the few Placencia Excursions we still haven’t done! We bypassed the village first to head up river for the tour and what a beautiful ride it is. Lush, green, broadleaf tropical forest grow directly to the river’s banks. We disembarked for a stroll through the jungle and immediately found a family of howler monkeys snoozing in the canopy above. They never leave the branches of the forest so protecting the jungle in its natural state is vital to the species. I learned that Breadfruit trees are NOT native to Belize, which surprised me because I think of them as a local staple in Belizean Cuisine, but they’ve been cultivated here since the 1700s.
Party at the Seawall
After our tour we all headed to the main event- the completed seawall at the two ocean-front homes that were threatened with washing away. What an astonishing difference! The water had literally been lapping at their doors and now this! Yards of reclaimed beach between them and this cement promenade and stone retaining wall. It looks so good!
We heard from several speakers including Attorney Audrey Matura (well known for her community and human rights activist work as well as environmental advocacy and founding Oceana), Dennis Garbutt (Eworth’s brother and chairman of the Toledo chapter of BTIA), Mario Muschamp (founder of a watershed alliance to address environmental concerns upstream), the home owners, and of course, Eworth. The overarching message was one resilience and self-reliance. The victory we were celebrating was a community’s victory achieved from within, not from governmental help or even outside NGO’s. We all recognize the current crisis we’re facing and we must stop waiting for help to arrive… from where? We can’t wait on some supposititious hero, we have to be our own saviors. If history has taught us anything it’s that the GOB only comes around with handouts around election time and that foreign aid is usually predatory (and if not, then they’re inefficient and academic in nature) so if we need something done we better roll up our sleeves and get crackin.
And look what we can do! With a vision and some sweat equity- this is something that will endure for future generations of Monkey River Villagers. I’m so glad we got to be a small part of this just like the Silk Caye restoration; not only did we make wonderful new acquaintances but I feel like this is so formative for Mitch and the other kids his age who will grow up to tell and teach the next generation of civic-minded, engaged, and action-taking community crusaders.
As the saying goes: It takes a village. Sometimes it takes two or more villages but we can move mountains when we work together towards a goal. Don’t think you can’t contribute or you have nothing of value to offer- every effort counts. Like Eworth said in his speech, we’re not so different than the leaf-cutter ants we all marveled at in the jungle tour. Wi can save wi.