Project Belize 2011 Participants Share Their Stories
Andrew Cohen, Transaction Services Intern (New York, NY)
Day 1: Arriving in BelizeI left New York City early in the morning and began my journey to Belize. After a few hours of travel and a layover in Miami, I arrived and boarded a bus for the hotel. Upon my arrival, I immediately noticed how many people the Firm had actually flown down for this event. Waves of PwC interns and staff from every office and line of service crowded the hallways as we collected our agendas and checked into the hotel. After successfully getting into the room and enjoying a few minutes of blissful air conditioning, I decided to take advantage of my two open hours remaining until programming was to begin. I changed into my swimsuit and headed down to the hotel pool where several like-minded interns and staff had already congregated. With the hectic onslaught of New York City taxis, airports, buses and the like behind me, I was thrilled to wind down for a while at the pool and meet PwC professionals and staff. Once everyone attending Project Belize had arrived at the hotel, we had our first breakout session where we were separated into our groups for our assigned schools and ultimately our designated classrooms. Following brief introductions and some chit chat, we determined who would be responsible for which lessons the following day and began planning our lessons. I found myself sitting with three people whom I had never met before: a partner and intern from the Atlanta office and a manager from the Boston office. What truly amazes me about PwC is that in a situation like this, where I am just meeting people for the first time, is the friendliness and mutual respect everyone in the Firm demonstrates. In my short experience with the Firm this summer, I have consistently seen this from all levels -- partner through intern. In the evening, all 200 Project Belize participants congregated in the dining room for the Opening Ceremony. We heard from several speakers: the PwC professionals that worked hard to organize the program, representatives from Peacework and the Deputy Chief Education Officer for Belize, Carol Babb. Mrs. Babb spoke to us about the socioeconomic and educational issues facing this small country and how she is working to bring opportunity to young people. While her speech truly inspired me, I was blown away when Shawn Saldano, a 13-year-old Belizean boy sang to us with the St. Luke's Choir. Everyone in the room had no idea what to expect when this young man took the stage. Once he began, we all sat in total awe as he sang a number of Belizean songs as well as the American national anthem. I have never in my life seen a young person with so much talent and charisma. This sentiment was clearly universal, as the room answered with thunderous applause once he finished. Following his performance, I found myself wondering about Shawn's life: What is his background and what lies ahead of him? In his life, what gave him the passion and talent he has now? What is it about his environment that has so clearly driven him? And lastly, does he have the opportunity to leverage his talents in a country like this and make something for himself? When I begin my teaching experience tomorrow, I hope to gain a better understanding of this country. Most importantly, I hope to inspire my students much like Shawn has inspired me. Brett Glowacki, Senior Associate - Transfer Pricing (Philadelphia, PA) Day 1: Arriving in Belize Sunday was a long day of travel. Upon departing the plane, we were welcomed by sunny skies, 86 degrees and 98 percent humidity. The country has a tropical island feel and the local language of Creole certainly brings an ambience of the Caribbean Islands. Upon arrival to the hotel, we dropped luggage at our hotel rooms, cranked the A/C and were off to meet with our training groups to prep for Monday’s teaching experience. I am part of the “Teacher Track”, which is helping provide financial and technology assistance to teachers. It consists of 10 diverse staff members at the Firm. The program coordinator then began to take us through the three days, assign tasks, and the curriculum we would be teaching. After the initial strategy session, we all met for dinner. We were served a meal of fish, jerk chicken, kabobs, rice, beans, and vegetables. The food was great and welcomed after a long day of travel. After the meal, we were greeted by Shannon Schuyler, PwC’s corporate responsibility Leader; Deputy Chief Education Officer for Belize, Carol Babb; and Executive Director of Peacework, Steven Darr. Throughout the various welcome speeches, we were also entertained by the St. Lukes choir. As a closing lesson, we were introduced to the native language of Creole. All and all, it was a fun, but busy day. Looking forward to what is ahead of us. Rachel Smith, Tax Intern (Greater Milwaukee Area) Day 1: Arriving in Belize
On first sight of the application email to Project Belize, I jumped at the chance to serve abroad. As I quickly glanced through the document, the words "community service," "corporate responsibility," and "international" stood out to me. These were all things that interested me and as a Spanish double major who loves to travel, I filled out the application as soon as possible.
From the pictures on the PwC website, I thought we would be renovating schools or building playgrounds, similar to the other mission trips I had been on. As I found out more about the project, I was surprised to learn that we would be leading financial literacy camps. I was even more excited for a couple reasons. First, I was unsure about how I could continue my interest in service as a public accountant. What a perfect opportunity to use my skill set to make a difference in the lives of others. Second, I believe education is an important key to development and success. How wonderful to reach out to youth in Belize. I like that we're here to share experiences and knowledge among one another so that we all may walk away better people. The ideas and feelings that will be shared can last a lifetime and then also shared with others.
Even though I had read the orientation material, I wasn't exactly sure what would happen when I arrived. Not only did I feel completely welcomed into Belize, but I felt inspired. At the opening ceremony, St. Luke's girl choir and thirteen-year-old soloist, Shawn Saldano, greeted us in energetic song. They proudly sang the national anthems of both Belize and the United States, "Welcome to Belize," and "Beautiful Belize." Not only were their voices and harmonies beautifully blended, but the enthusiasm and pride that came from these young people was impressive. During the ceremony, there were many remarks of thanks, welcome, and friendship. I could perceive the relationships that had been built over the last several years through this project. How powerful to see people come together to help people and come away with new, lasting friendships.
So as we embark on the first day of camp, I'm excited to meet the students with whom we will share the next three days! I'm hopeful, inspired, and eager to learn from them.