Belize Family Life Association Rises from the Ashes

Lucella Campbell, Senior Program Advisor

Sometimes the darkest moments of our lives can hold the greatest possibility for our liberation and growth. And so it has been for the Belize Family Life Association (BFLA), one of our partners in the Caribbean.

By the end of 2011, the weight of serious financial constraints caused BFLA to face the real possibility of being forced to close its doors. When this news hit the airwaves in Belize, the story quickly went viral across social media. Fortunately, the result was a wellspring of support for the organization's critical work. BFLA is the only organization in the country that focuses exclusively on sexual and reproductive health.

Strong community protest insisted that Belize could not afford the closure of this organization, whose work was so important to so many people's well being. Funders, clients, well wishers, and partner organizations all expressed one combined sentiment: we will do what we must to keep the doors open.

In Dangriga, the birthplace of the BFLA, one supporter took on the responsibility of paying the BFLA staff salaries for two months in order to ensure the clinic would remain open. A powerful group of grassroots women activists called Productive Organization for Women in Action took further steps by accepting the responsibility for promoting BFLA's services and directing women to the clinic to ensure its continued solvency. The extent of the support for BFLA was demonstrated last week when Joan Burke, BFLA's executive director, received very good news from a totally unexpected source: First Caribbean International Bank (FCIB).

Last week the Customer Service Manager of FCIB, Gina Castillo, presented Burke with a check for nearly BZD $18,000 (~USD $9,400), the proceeds the bank raised for the organization during a Christmas fundraising campaign. With the agreement of credit card holders across Belize, FCIB accumulated a percentage of the funds spent by its clients over November and December in order to give a donation to BFLA.

"Everybody had seen that the BFLA was having some financial difficulties, and as the community-minded bank that we are, we decided we needed to do something to assist," said Castillo. "[BFLA offers] very essential services to Belizeans at very low cost, so it was a worthwhile cause for us.”

The bank's donation will support BFLA’s cervical cancer prevention program. Cervical cancer, a disease that is preventable with treatment and screening, is a significant cause of death among women in the Caribbean.

"I am receiving this money on behalf of the people that we serve," said Burke. "I say a big thank you to the First Caribbean International Bank and its credit card holders."

At the start of 2012, IPPF/WHR is proud to see our Member Association rising from the ashes of a tumultuous previous year. The experiences of 2011 served to highlight more than ever the depth and value of grassroots support, and that BFLA’s evolving program will have at its core a higher level of community involvement going forward. Together with its allies, BFLA is creating an organization that promises to be even more vibrant and responsive to the sexual and reproductive health needs of all Belizeans.

Below is a news report on this story from Love TV Belize.

Recognizing Sexual Rights: Eradicating Stigma and Discrimination, Part 2


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