Preserve Garifuna Culture with Drumming & Dance in S. Belize
Location: Punta Gorda, Belize
Learn about the unique Garifuna culture of Central America while volunteering at a locally owned drum and dance school! Descendants of ship-wrecked west African slaves who intermixed with the Carib and Arawak Indians on the island of St Vincent, the Garifuna people boast a unique culture, music, language and history, and their music and dance is UNESCO recognised.
We offer authentic Garifuna drumming, drum-making and dancing lessons to both local Belizean families and visitors. We need help marketing what we offer and keeping it all looking neat and tidy, so that we can teach more people about the unique Garifuna culture and music, and stop it from dying out. It is also our livelihood. We have a beautiful traditional thatch building on the edge of Punta Gorda town, in beautiful surroundings with toucans, parrots, iguanas and howler monkeys all living nearby.
Ronald Raymond McDonald (yes, his real name given at birth!) the owner and chief instructor, is a former drummer, dancer and singer for the Belize National Dance Company, and has travelled all over Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and also to California to perform. He is from a family of drummers and singers, and during your visit you will no doubt meet his parents and siblings who are also a key part of his efforts to stop his culture from disappearing. The money raised from offering visitors lessons helps us to offer discounted lessons to local children, and the awareness raised by sharing our culture is priceless.
We don't have lessons or activities taking place at the drum school every day as we are a small business that still has a lot of growing to do, which is why we need help with marketing!
For all you music lovers and those who really want to learn - for every paying guest you bring to us, then you can join in on the lesson for free :-). Otherwise we can't guarantee that you'll hear drumming every day, but there is a good chance you will get to see Ray and his family perform at least once.
In general we need most help in marketing, ideally from experienced and/or professional marketers, but also with lower level stuff like posting on our Facebook page, improving our website, and general internet marketing, meeting tourists that arrive by boat and bus, helping us keep local hotels and restaurants topped up with our brochures and business cards and making sure everyone knows what we offer.
We already have business cards, brochures, a website, a Facebook page, and are featured on quite few national and international websites, have over 30 5* TripAdvisor reviews, but still very few actual guests. So, if you are experienced and can improve what is out there and bring in more people, then we need to hear from you. Anyone with experience in web design would also be wonderful as our website needs to be updated and improved.
We also need some assistance with general upkeep of the drum school, such as clearing drainage ditches, maintaining the traditional thatch, keeping the yard clean, and helping us plant the trees and shrubs that we use to make our drums, maracas and other family made craft items, or planting the coconut, plantain and cassava that we use in traditional Garifuna dishes. For the artistically inclined, you can also help us to make the actual drums and maracas or help us to decorate them.
We only have a single bed, but if one person is happy to sleep in a hammock, we can accommodate two people.
We are looking for people to commit to one week or more.
We offer basic accommodation in a small wooden room with a single bed, heavy duty mosquito net, fan and mirror under our traditional thatch drum school, with access to outside flush toilets and indoor shower. Our thatch is on the edge of Punta Gorda town, with the town centre about a 20 minute walk or 5 minute bike ride away.
We offer basic cooked dinner every evening (basic but good such as home made tortilla with scrambled eggs and refried beans, plenty of purified water for you to drink). For your breakfast and lunch we offer limited cooking facilities, tea and coffee (table top gas stove and some basic pots, pans and plates).
Our internet access is data usage based 3G, which is not always reliable. We ask volunteers to limit usage to basic email, Facebook and Skype (voice only) or equivalent for personal usage, as data costs are quite high. There are several locations in town that (parks, cafes) that have free wifi access also.
Punta Gorda town is a small coastal town (population about 5,500) in southern Belize, within easy reach of many exciting activities such as snorkelling, diving, kayaking, cycling, Maya temples, chocolate farm tours, rainforest hikes, and a wide variety of cultural activities. We are also only 2 hours by bus and boat from Placencia, Belize's best known beach village, and a 45 minute boat ride from Livingston, Guatemala. There are a number of daily buses to surrounding towns and villages and daily boats to Guatemala. There is no sand beach, but you can swim off various piers.
We are a husband and wife team and we live in our house right next to the drum school. Ray was born in "PG" and has lived here his whole life, and is family, friends or acquaintances with almost everybody in town. Ruth is originally from Scotland and has been living in Belize for over 7 years. Ray's mum, dad, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins also often stop by to join the family group performances, help make drums, or join the occasional family barbecue.
We have a loyal "Sheprador" (German Shephard Labrador cross) called Rascal who lives up to his name. He usually warms up to visitors quickly but if you are not comfortable with him we can make sure he is secure.
Our location is a 20 minute walk down a road leading out of town with other Garifuna family homes scattered along the way. The centre of town and the nearest shops and bars are a 15 minute walk or 5 minute bicycle ride away. We also have a motorcycle and (temperamental) car, and when one of us is going into town anyway, we don't mind giving volunteers a ride. We also have a couple of bicycles which you can borrow when we are not using them.
"PG" is a very small town so volunteers need to be respectful of local culture and norms, but it is also a friendly town where visitors are made to feel welcome and at home. While there are not large numbers of tourists and other visitors, you won't be the only one!
As mentioned before, if you bring a paying guest to us, then you can join in on the lesson (drumming, drum-making or dancing) for free. Or if you want your own private drumming, drum-making or dancing lesson, we can offer you a discount.
When one of us is home you can use our washing machine to do your laundry and you have 24hr access to the solar dryer (unless it's raining of course....then you can hang your clothes under the thatch!).
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