Dear Friends,

The Belize Friends School needs our help, to the tune of raising $37,500 in order to remain open for the remainder of the school year. We understand this is a shocking thing to say, so we will try to make clear, in the space below, the reasons for this deficit:

1. The Belizean Government made an administrative change regarding the classification and oversight of schools that has increased our school’s operating expenses. This change requires more training and education for our teachers, which will ultimately be a good thing, but it was not an anticipated cost. Monthly operating costs for the School are now around $5,500.

2. The Belize City Friends Center, of which the Belize Friends School is a part, was without a Director from the departure of Dale Graves in January of 2018 until the arrival of Nikki Holland this fall. While staff and volunteers were continuing to do good work, it wasn’t until Nikki assumed the Directorship that the financial shortfall facing the School became clear.

3. The Center’s ability to use funds flexibly to cover costs is diminishing. As with the changes in requirements for the school’s teachers, this will be a positive change; in the past, all the monies for our Belize ministries have been co-mingled, and we have not always been clear about which monies were to be used for school operations. Friends United Meeting, partnering with Belizean auditors, is in the process of establishing four separate entities in Belize—FUM INC, Belize Friends School, Belize City Friends Center, and Belize City Friends Church—so that funds will remain separate and accountable. Establishing these new controls is currently exacerbating the financial situation of the school.

4. This crisis also comes at a time when FUM is tightening internal financial controls. In the past, FUM’s restricted budget has stated a specific goal to be raised for the operation of the school, but we have not been raising the amount needed. This June, the General Board of FUM created a new policy which does not allow for sending funds to a ministry project unless the funds are on hand or a solid plan is in place to raise the funds. The General Board created this policy in order to prevent a growing deficit in FUM’s restricted budget.

5. In our excitement to get Nikki Holland to Belize, some Friends shifted their giving from the Belize Friends School to help fund Nikki’s ministry. That generosity is appreciated and, as the current crisis makes clear, Nikki’s leadership in Belize is deeply needed. However, it has left the Belize Friends School at a fundraising deficit. This deficit is worsened by both a lower-than-normal enrollment rate which results in lowered income from tuition; and by playing catchup on neglected financial responsibilities.

These are sobering facts, but they do not dim our hope. Christmas is the time for miracles, Friends. We believe that, with Christ to help us, it is possible to meet this goal. We also believe that with Nikki’s leadership in place and with the task begun with the Belizean auditors to establish four financially separate entities, we are looking at a way forward for a more financially stable Belize Friends School.

We are not alone in this task. Friends across our beloved fellowship are mobilizing to fundraise. This includes Friends at the School itself, which has established a fundraising committee and has fundraising events in planning. Of the $37,500 needed to keep the School open for the rest of the school year, $6,469 has already come in, leaving us with $31,031 to raise—a daunting task, but not an impossible one.

We don’t feel that we need to convince Friends in Southwest Ohio and East Tennessee about the importance of the Belize Friends School. You already know that the Belize Friends School stands in an educational gap, offering children a second chance at entering high school or trade school in a city and country where the alternatives are grim. Many Friends among us have traveled to Belize on work teams—some many times—and most of us have attended fundraising meals and silent auctions and have opened our hearts and our wallets for this work.

So, to do our part in keeping the school open, we are going to have a Spaghetti Fundraiser at Wilmington Friends Meeting from noon—2:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 15. If you would like to help with organizing that fundraiser, or you have a story about the Belize Friends School that you would like to share with Friends, or you just want more information, then you are invited to an informational meeting and planning session at Wilmington Friends Meeting on Friday, December 6, at 6:00 p.m.; come in through the red door that faces the city building and go up the stairs to the library. We know that Friends in Tennessee are unlikely to be able to travel for these events, and we are willing and able to offer video connection.

If you would like to make a donation without attending the Spaghetti Fundraiser, you can do so by making a check out to Wilmington Yearly Meeting with Belize Friends School in the memo line and mailing it to WYM // 1870 Quaker Way, Box 1194 // Wilmington, OH 45177. You can also donate online, but be sure to select Belize Friends School from the drop-down list at this link: www.friendsunitedmeeting.org/giving/donate

We recognize that a letter like this one cannot possibly address all concerns and questions. This represents our best attempt to explain the situation as we currently understand it. If you would like more information, you can contact General Secretary Kelly Kellum or Global Ministries Director Eden Grace through the Richmond FUM office. You can also contact Scott Wagoner and Michael Sherman, who are the FUM Board liaisons to the Belize Friends School Board. We also encourage you to be in conversation with Wilmington Yearly Meeting’s representatives to the FUM Board: Mike Miller and Katie Ubry-Terrell.

Thank you for the love and prayer you’ve already invested in the Belize Friends School and for the time you’ve spent reading this appeal. If you’d like to help us spread the word, you can (1) share this e-mail with F/friends, (2) ask the office for bulletin inserts to share with your Meeting, (3) ‘like’ the Wilmington Yearly Meeting Facebook Page to share news and updates with your network, and (4) send your own photos from Belize to Julie Rudd (JulieERudd at Gmail.com) to be shared widely among F/friends!

With trust for a Christmas Miracle,
An Ad Hoc Committee for Fundraising:
Libbie Curry, Mindy Henson, Nancy McCormick, Julie Rudd, Katie Ubry-Terrell