By Glenn Drexhage
Shirley Humes is keen to help communities deal with issues of coastal development in her home country of Belize. And she aims to do that by applying the knowledge she gains at Vancouver Island University over the next two years.
Humes, a planner in Belize’s Ministry of Natural Resources, is enrolled in VIU’s Master of Community Planning program. She’s interested in the impact of unplanned tourism developments on indigenous coastal communities.
“I want to learn as much as I can here,” said Humes, who hails from Punta Gorda, the southernmost town in Belize. “I want to see the different ways that planning is being done, and what I can take back home.”
In September, VIU welcomed Humes and four other Belizean students as part of its Building Resilience in Coastal Communities program. The university also welcomed back to Canada its first cohort of outbound VIU scholars, who recently returned from internships and research projects in Belize, in Central America.
Funded by the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program, VIU’s BRiCC initiative will award more than $800,000 in scholarships over three years to 31 students. VIU chose to partner with Belize because of shared challenges and opportunities around coastal resilience and climate change.
Stacey Cayetano, another Belizean QEII scholar, is enrolled in VIU’s Master of Geographic Information Systems Applications program; in Belize, she worked as a GIS technician at the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute.
Her research at VIU will examine the effects of climate change, tourism and rapid development on Caye Caulker, a coral island off the Belizean coast. She plans to look at ways to lessen the impact of erosion on the island’s beachfront.
The exchange initiative has also provided valuable learning experiences for VIU participants such as Devan Cronshaw, a graduate student in the Master of Community Planning program. Cronshaw recently returned to Nanaimo from Belize, where he researched waterfront development.
Glenn Drexhage is a writer with VIU’s communications department.