While we have a unique opportunity to spend time at home together, we’re excited to introduce some special content, with inspiring stories and spotlights on our incredible students and teachers. We’d be thrilled to hear from you if there are any meaningful moments or recent projects that you’d like to share with us.
We were excited to have the opportunity to connect with Fairmont Prep senior Julia Tao and learn about her organization Agape Belize Cure (ABC). Her dedication exemplifies a level of leadership and lasting impact that inspires us and that we are proud to have within our student body.
What is the mission of Agape Belize Cure and who does it serve?
Agape Belize Cure (ABC) is a student-run nonprofit organization that works to bring medical relief to Belize by conducting free clinics annually in various towns and villages throughout Southern Belize. Students assist doctors in clinics by running stations where they perform roles such as taking vital signs or filling prescriptions under supervision, as well as instructing patients on basic health education. The purpose of the mission is not to provide long-term care, but rather to promote self-sufficiency through education in personal health maintenance.
In the months before and after the summer missions, the ABC student officer board conducts regular meetings to teach newcomers, assist patients requiring follow-up care, and prepare for the upcoming missions. The various ABC school club chapters also fundraise for projects such as bucket water filters for a Mayan village suffering from parasite infections, books and shoes for Belizean children, and dental chairs for use during the summer missions.
What inspired you to create the organization?
I initially became interested in Belize because of a family vacation in 2013, where we all fell in love with the country and began to visit annually. Initially, we stayed in the resort areas and didn’t see much of the local culture, but as we visited more, my family ventured into the jungle areas, where we met Mayan villagers, as well as became close friends with the locals in the coastal town of Placencia. But over the next three years, three of our close Belizean friends passed away, and another had developed cataracts from decades of tending to the seaweed farm without eye protection. It was then that we realized the healthcare system in Belize was lacking, and many Belizeans had never even seen a doctor in their lives.
The turning point for me was when a thirty-year-old fisherman, who had been one of Placencia’s best seaweed farmers, suddenly died, leaving behind an orphaned son. At this point, I started ABC by connecting with a few family friends who were in the medical field and arranging a summer mission to a few different villages in Southern Belize. The first year, the mission consisted of only seven people (including three doctors and one pharmacist), but it has now grown to over 150 people — including 50 doctors and medical specialists, as well as students and other volunteers. The school clubs were started due to our short-term clinics still being unable to provide solutions for long term problems, such as lack of a safe source of drinking water and shoes. Our school club and the other ABC club chapters fundraise and continue the mission at home.
What is your role in the organization?
I started ABC in 2017 and have been involved ever since in organizing and participating in missions, conducting meetings, and managing the student board.
How have Fairmont students and other student clubs participated?
There are twelve other Fairmont students who have gone or will be going on the ABC summer medical missions (Adam Alamy, Dean Alamy, Natalie Bui, Emmaly Nguyen, Ethan Nguyen, Kenneth Yang, Michael Lee, Hannah Lee, Amberyn Te, Anisha Fenske,Vivian Tien, and Becky Zhang). Adam, Dean, Emmaly, Ethan, Kenneth, Michael, and Natalie have been key members and are officers on the ABC student board.
ABC also has school club chapters and high school students who participate in the mission from Valencia, Troy, Los Alamitos, Servite, and Edgemont (in Scarsdale, New York), as well as university students from Baylor, UCI, Stanford, Virginia Commonwealth, Washington University, and McGill University (Canada).
Despite being confined at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ABC juniors (including Natalie Bui, Emmaly Nguyen, Dean Alamy, and Kenneth Yang) have done an incredible job supporting our nation’s healthcare workers in the global crisis by making and distributing over 500 face shields and spreading awareness on social media.
What is the future for ABC after you graduate?
We recently finished the election process for the new ABC board, and of the Fairmont students in ABC, Natalie Bui and Dean Alamy are the new co-presidents, Emmaly Nguyen is a co-vice president, Ethan Nguyen is the Chief Technology Officer, Kenneth Yang is the Chief Media Officer, and Vivian Tien is a co-president of the Medical Education Department. [Full list of departments: Media, Fundraising, Marketing, Financial, Legal, Executive, Medical Education, Technology]. Although I will be transferring leadership, I plan to continue being active in the organization, participating in the missions, and giving assistance whenever necessary.
What are your biggest takeaways from this work?
In the beginning, I believed providing medical care would do the most good in Belize, but throughout these few years I realized it is really education that has made the largest impact. Few Belizeans eat a balanced diet, and a major cause of the parasite infections in the Mayan village was the lack of proper sanitary practices.
Although the purpose of the mission is to bring aid to Belize, it is really the patients who have impacted and inspired me and the rest of the ABC members. It is truly an honor to have the trust of our patients, who have shown such courage and determination in the face of hardships. I feel privileged to have been able to witness so many incredible recoveries, such as one young man who was paralyzed from the neck down after falling off a pickup truck. He did the exercises our occupational therapist gave him every day, and even built his own muscle-strengthening contraptions, in order to be able to walk with a walker just a year later.
I am also incredibly grateful to the doctors and students who have volunteered their time and efforts in both the clinics and related projects. ABC is such a collaborative process, and none of it would have been possible without each and every one of our members.
Although ABC is based in Belize, I hope that it can inspire others to make an impact in their own communities or elsewhere in the world as well.
If you’re inspired and would like to learn more about ABC, you can visit agapebelizecure.weebly.com or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also view their Facebook page (@agapebelizecure) and their YouTube channel.