Crocheting In Belize

A couple of years ago I had this gnawing urge to relocate—to Belize, of all places. Memories of my one-week stay there kept tugging at my heart. Belize had captured me… hook, line and sinker.

I had visited Belize in July 2013 as part of a week-long mission experience. My mission was there to complete some construction work on a church, build a playground, and help with kids’ bible study. We’d be traveling to a little village called Succotz near San Ignacio in the Cayo District, the inland district of Belize noted for its abundant and lush rain forest.

I knew I wasn’t going to be doing a lot of construction work, so I tried to come up with something I could do that would be helpful. It occurred to me that I might be able to get the parents more involved while their children participated in school activities. I enlisted the aid of another lady in this private mission of mine… I had learned that she was avid and accomplished crochetist and she was willing to teach me and the other interested ladies her craft. I had never been interested until then, but I got serious and even got in some lessons before I left the States. I was determined.

Through donations we bought some colorful yarn and needles to take with us to Belize… I was all-in now, and hoping my gamble would pay off—that the mothers would be interested in crocheting while their kids played.

Once we arrived in Belize, and then in Succotz, it was clear we wouldn’t be crocheting any hats or scarves! I started to doubt this brilliant idea… what in the world could be made that would be used in this climate? I would soon find out.

Meantime, our group of 41 people finished the two-hour ride from the airport over rocky, dusty roads in some old yellow school buses with no air conditioning. Once arrived, we were shown our lodgings: old, empty elementary school buildings with bathrooms in another building across the yard. We pumped up the air mattresses we had brought from the States and made our way to the dining hall—the school’s old cafeteria. I was beginning to wonder if I should have come on this trip at all…

Later that day we hopped back on the school buses to head to the church that would host our mission work. Along the way I noticed various styles of residential houses… many were on stilts… Many were surrounded by many types of fruit tree and some of these trees were heavy with fruit I had never seen before—some of it very large. As we passed along the roads locals waved at us… we waved back.

Arriving at the church we were greeted by the pastor and some locals who wanted to welcome us—and we were welcomed like long lost relatives to this small, well-built church. It was nice to be so well received, but I think most of us were more grateful for the newly installed central air conditioning!

On the first day my friend and I set up a crochet table inside the temperature-controlled church with our balls of yarns and needles laying out for anyone to use. A few parents who had been sitting around looked over at the table where we had started to crochet so we invited them over to join us and a couple came without any hesitation. In just a few minutes one of the ladies had made a beautiful table runner. She was so excited and proud—I was just glad someone was interested… my yarn wouldn’t go to waste, after all!

Over the next few days, word spread. Our church crochet event was the talk of the town and by the end of the week we had 21 women and men to join us. The pastor blessed this as their first Women’s Fellowship that we all hoped would continue.

At the end of each day, the women invited us to visit one of their homes. There we saw even more beautiful handmade items, a few of which we couldn’t resist buying. Their homes weren’t luxuriously decorated, but the hospitality was overwhelming. The welcome mat was laid for us everywhere we went.

One rich experience from our crochet sessions is particularly memorable. One of the senior ladies who attended had minimal mobility in her left arm. No matter how she tried, she couldn’t hold a needle. Nevertheless, we invited her to sit at the table and take advantage of the warmth of the little social atmosphere we had created in our cozy little crochet corner. She only spoke Spanish, so every day when she arrived she sat next to me and I would get out my bilingual English/Spanish bible and together we would recite the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish. I cherished this interaction every time we met… it’s a beautiful thing to find out that you can communicate with a person, even if you don’t speak their language. (While Belize is an English-speaking country, it’s surrounded by Spanish speaking ones. Before I left the States I had taken an introduction to Spanish class… some thought I was wasting my time, but I wanted to be sure I was prepared in case I met any Spanish speakers.)

By the time I left, I knew I would have to come back… to stay.

One year later, in September of 2014, I was back at the airport in the States with a one way ticket to my new home: Belize.

Now, having recently celebrated my first-year anniversary living in Belize, I still don’t do much crocheting… but the experience was priceless!

Marie Peay
Belize Insider