The very first day Kakeka and I were able to meet with the Maya youth leaders from Julian Cho Society in Punta Gorda town in Belize, something strange happened.

After sitting in ceremony together and hearing from strong leaders including women & youth, and a presentation on what photo voice is, the Manitoba group and the Maya youth leaders went out to do some photo voice activities. We were asked to take one photograph that spoke to us. We went outside of the building and into the humid and stuffy ocean air and bright sunlight. We looked past the colourful buildings, the palm trees and sunshine out onto the ocean…it was huge! As someone who grew up in Winnipeg, essentially land locked and prairie all around me, this image of the Carribean Sea and the smell of salt on the air was such a new sensation.

I walked with my partner, a Maya youth leader, and so did Kakeka with her partner, but it may be no surprise that it didn’t take long for both of us to end up at the water’s edge staring out at the waters together. And as we stood there together asking ourselves if this was real life, something tugged at our attention and caused us to look down. And there at both of our feet, protruding ever so slightly from the sand at the water’s edge, was a jagged piece of what I thought was an abalone (smudge) shell. I knelt down and began to gently dig away from the shell the sand that had become attached to it. You can imagine our surprise when it turned out it wasn’t the shell we thought at first, but it was a conch shell. A CONCH SHELL!

Kakeka and I were in Belize because our relationship with Anny at UM Community Service Learning connected us to the amazing community of Maya leaders here. The youth, inspired by the mega phone at Meet Me at the Bell Tower and the cultural focus of AYO! invited us to share our experiences as they embarked on their own youth led movement. The name they chose of course, was The Sounding of The Conch Shell.

How did we find that at the very beginning of our journey there? Was it just a coincidence? Or did we hear the conch shell sounding?

••••••

(More Belize adventures to be shared in future…you can read my first post here)

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