It all started in 2007. Becky Downard was on a trip celebrating her recent college graduation when she stopped in Belize for a few days. As she explored, she became burdened with the needs of the children she saw, and how many of them lacked the opportunity for an education. She made it her goal to find a way to help them.
Later that year, Becky returned to Belize with her parents, Mike and Carol Downard, to find a way to help. As they explored the country, they learned from the locals that the government did not have the money to fund preschools. As a result, many children struggled when they started grade school, often falling so far behind that they were unable to attend high school or college. It was clear what they could do to help: build a preschool.
By December 2007, the Downards had assembled their first team of volunteers and began the process of building the first preschool in the village of Cottontree. Driven entirely by volunteers two weeks out of each year, construction took several years as they drained the swampy location, laid foundations, and built a facility strong enough with the rainy season. Today, Miracle Angels Preschool graduates over twenty students a year in a town that previously had no early education options available.
"We firmly believe that changing a village or nation begins with changing its building blocks."
Since 2007, Starfish Outreach has renovated a second preschool in the city of Dangriga, as well as launching teaching clinics, First Aid and CPR certification classes, sewing workshops, and other community outreach programs. In 2015, Mike and Carol began working on the Starfish Outreach project full-time with the goal of developing a new community center and more preschools.
In 2017, Becky passed away from complications after surgery. The legacy she left behind paired with her parent's drive to see her vision completed has seen enormous growth for Starfish Outreach. With the support of her friends, family, and those inspired her her efforts, we look forward to redoubling our efforts in the future as we empower the communities of Belize through education.