News from Sharon and Jamal!
After two years of fund-raising and design work and then actual on-the-ground work, the zoo is now 100 percent accessible. The rose-coloured pathways no longer stop and go, they simply GO! And lots of happy moments are to be had for anyone with diverse abilities. Some of the zoo animals come close up to see their wheelchair visitors. Not used to seeing kids or adults in “moving chairs," the animal curiosity is also fun to observe.
Our help has come from various sincere and kind sources. No words can fully serve to sufficiently thank the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland, who not only raised funds for this important project, but then their students and instructor all came to Belize to assist in building the pathways. Pathway construction supervisor, Mr. Max was skeptical seeing his young female assistants come on board. However, he quickly changed his initial “first opinion” when these young ladies eagerly pushed wheelbarrows and shoveled cement, day after day! “Girl power” to the max, Mr. Max!
Local business contributions also assisted our efforts. As did a superb gift from Mr. Peter Hughes and his colleagues at the British High Commission. Our area representative, Hon. Dolores Balderamos, kindly made a contribution to show her support of this work. Last December, while still not fully finished, the Belize Assembly for People with Diverse Abilities (BAPDA) came to the zoo to celebrate World Disabilities Day. Smiling kids in wheelchairs glided down the pathways and saw our jaguars and toucans. “Rose” the crocodile made an appearance to add to the magic of the celebration, while officials from BAPDA excitedly spoke about returning so that all could experience the fun and excitement again.
Each week, our zoo crew sees more and more wheelchair using visitors. And visitors who do the “walk about” frequently comment on the pathways, too. “It’s fun to walk on," - we often hear that statement. Due to the pathway construction technique, perfected by long-term zoo employee, Tony Garel, the air and gravel mixture with just the right amount of cement, provides a bit of a “cushion” for all of our zoo visitors. And for parents with strollers, a zoo visit is an easy visit, and a delight for stroller-passengers, too.
At this time, The Belize Zoo is the only nature destination in Belizewhich is accessible. We are proud and happy about this accomplishment! Good Zoo? We have always been a very good zoo. However, now we truly are, “The Best Little Zoo in the World."