T.E.A. – Toledo Ecotourism Association – http://www.teabelize.org/
I have recently become involved with an organization called the Toledo Ecotourism Association. The purpose of this organization is to bring empowerment to the Mayan communities surrounding the town of Punta Gorda in the Toledo District. This organization has been working for several years to try and bring a special kind of tourism opportunity to the local villages. The method of empowerment that T.E.A. is trying to incorporate will encourage the Mayan people to run their own tourist services while retaining most of the proceeds resulting from tourist visitors.
My involvement to date has been as an assistant to the group, reviewing email content and presentation material, providing input on timelines and anything else that may be required as a support individual. The chairman of the T.E.A. organization is an individual named Reyes Chun, a Mayan from a village called San Pedro Columbia and this community is already running an ecotourism community. Reyes is passionate about this project and he is working tirelessly to see the project come to light. In addition to his participation in T.E.A., Reyes is running a cacao farm along with other crops to support his family.
The concept is simple. Tourists are introduced to a village for a true Mayan experience. Each village offers something a little different from the others; dancing, crafts, music. And each village offers a natural experience slightly different – caves, kayaking, tubing, waterfalls. The visitors to the Mayan village stay overnight in a guesthouse and experience Mayan village life for a day. The interesting part of this program is that it is self-directed by the villagers. The money received for the experience stays mostly with the village itself, with a small stipend being given to T.E.A. for administrative fees. The money brought to the vilage is used to enhance health and education, promote conservation awareness and supplement the T.E.A. families’ abilities to provide the daily necessities to keep their children healthy and to further their levels of education. The money truly does stay with the village and is not sent off to a distant corporation.
Visit the T.E.A. website, learn more about this truly different project. You can also visit the facebook page and watch for updates.