D. Verne Sharma Has Joined PathLight International's Board of Directors

PathLight International is pleased to announce that D. Verne Sharma has joined the Board of Directors. After completing his MBA at Wharton, Mr. Sharma worked at the global management consulting firm of McKinsey & Company, then served in senior management positions at GE Medical Systems, US Surgical Corp, and Summit Technology. He recently retired from his role as CEO and Chairman of RxSight, Inc., based in Aliso Viejo, CA. Mr. Sharma was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, where he met his wife, Aurora. They currently split their time between Trinidad and Miami.

“I am thrilled to be invited to join the PathLight Board,” said Verne. “My visit to Belize last year was a unique opportunity for me to see the organization’s work first hand, and I could not be more excited to join this outstanding effort to educate and uplift children and their local communities in Belize. I look forward to working with Roy, Roger, and the PathLight team to fulfill our mission of bringing the love of Christ to and having real impact on the lives of people."

Roy Goble, co-founder of PathLight and current Board Chair, said, “Having Verne join our small organization will help us think bigger and operate more wisely. His experience with large corporate organizations, along with his deep faith and understanding of the Caribbean culture, will provide the wisdom and experience we need to take PathLight to the next level. I’m honored he would join PathLight.”

Verne and Aurora attended Bel Air Presbyterian Church when they lived in Los Angeles, and they remember Roger Dermody as the Executive Pastor. Roger said, “It was great to reconnect with Verne when we visited Belize together last year. I look forward to working with him in our effort to bring hope to the children of Belize.”

Click here to find out who else is on the PathLight Board of Directors.

A Few Reflections From Our 2017 Graduation

"Pride and humility. Eagerness and reserve. Finality and new beginnings. Improbability and hope. These words only begin to describe the range of emotion witnessed and personally encountered last week. I was privileged to attend and participate in the graduation celebration of the PathLight class of 2017. Thirteen graduates, ten high school seniors, two vocational school and one university student and their families were joined by nine PathLight S+ sponsors for a special evening of celebration, music, awards, affirmation, reflection and fine dining at Jaguar Creek.

For our students, this is a truly momentous occasion. Most are the first person in their family to ever graduate from High School.

Now open to each of them are choices they never would have had otherwise. Our Biblical reflection that evening was taken from the story of Moses, who was called out of unlikely circumstances to be a leader of God's people, and to achieve something incredible with God's help. I'm certain that this truth is totally appropriate for our students. Each of them have come out of seemingly hopeless circumstances. Each of them have been mentored by our incredible Belizean staff. Each of them have grown in their faith. Each of them are a clearer reflection of the character of Christ, and each of them have been given the tools to be a part of changing the entire country of Belize. 

Visiting sponsors Paula, Steve, Kathleen, Lindsey and Josh were able to go to the homes and meet the student and the family they have helped over the past four years, and celebrate with them. Many tears of gratitude were shed, and simple gifts of food and hospitality were shared. “If you are an S+ Sponsor, you need to be on this trip. Every S+ Sponsor needs to plan to come to Belize for the graduation festivities when the time comes for your sponsored student to graduate. It will mean the world to them, and it will forever change you." 

– Roger Dermody, PathLight CEO

"It was so fun to meet Ana. She is beautiful in so many ways. I cannot imagine how proud her family is of her. Ana has persevered, reaching this important milestone with the help of all of us who are on her team.

She told me that she cannot believe that she has been able to come this far; and the best is yet to come! For now she pauses, catching her breath before her education continues. And then there will be new challenges. But she is ready, and I have been so blessed to contribute in such a small way to insure Ana’s present and future success. It IS up to her, but she could not have done it without PathLight."

– Steve Madsen, Lead Pastor of Cornerstone Fellowship, Ana's Sponsor

Congratulations PathLight Class of 2017!

Like Moses, God has called you out of unlikely circumstances into leadership, and to do something amazing with God's help. You already have done something truly amazing! Thank you for letting PathLight be a part of that journey.

Seven Springs Rotary Awarded International Grant for Training of Teachers, Principals in Belize

Thanks to a major humanitarian grant from the Rotary Foundation, local community members will travel to Belize this summer to assist PathLight International in efforts to train educators and stock a local media resource center with books and other educational supplies.

The grant, awarded to the Seven Springs Rotary Club, will allow for over $100,000 to go towards the project, spearheaded by the Club's Director of lnternational Projects and former faculty member of Pasco-Hernando State College, Dr. David Barzelay.

The project includes a general training program for 250 teachers and 50 principals, respectively, in the capital city of Belmopan and in Belize City for a total of 600 Belizean professional educators trained. The project also would create specialized training for the Belizean principals on classroom management, best practices and critical thinking skills.

The successful partnership also includes the Belize Ministry of Education and PathLight International, a nonprofit organization. The project will use a "Teacher Training" model developed by PathLight, in bringing well-qualified US teachers to Belize to train a cadre of Belizean teachers who will pass the training along to the next generation. 

PathLight Student Meets Her Sponsor's Daughter

Dianna (left) – 10th grade student from Grace Christian Academy in Nashville, TN – and her family have been sponsoring PathLight's Ruby (right) for the past two years, and the two girls are only six months apart in age. Dianna's mom Shar knew what a meaningful opportunity it would be for the girls to meet. 

With the help of PathLight's Program Director Mariam, they got a chance to do just that. Led by Grace Christian Academy's Missions Teacher Judy Barnette, a team of six students and their trip leaders met Ruby and her family in the village of Cotton Tree. Ruby's mom Yesenia (center) welcomed the visitors into her home, where the American students got a chance to see village life up close, including the parrot who lives with Ruby and her family. Ruby and her brothers showed the students around the village before sending them on their way to conduct a Vacation Bible School at another Belizean village. Many new Facebook friends have been created, and Ruby and Dianna have built the beginnings of a beautiful international friendship!

Interested in Sponsorship+? 

PathLight International Appoints Adrian Bartley as Director of Community Partners


PathLight International enthusiastically announces that Adrian Bartley has joined the California-based nonprofit as the first Belizean Director of Community Partners. Adrian brings valuable experience coordinating and hosting visiting mission teams who travel to Belize for mission service projects. He has also founded several nonprofits and is passionate about helping the underserved and under-resourced people of Belize. 

PathLight’s Community Partners program provides transformational short term mission service experiences for visiting teams, facilitating projects that create supportive learning environments in partner schools and communities. Adrian brings invaluable knowledge and contacts. As our Community Partners Director, Adrian will organize and host visiting teams including families, churches, youth groups, colleges, and service organizations. 

Adrian is an active volunteer and a devoted Christian, serving in his church as Worship Leader and head of their homeless feeding program.  He also founded a ministry that counsels teenage males and helps them return to trade school to further their education and develop marketable skills.

Having completed a tour guide training program, Adrian has created a network of tour providers who offer the beauty and adventure of Belize to visitors. He studied at Sacred Heart Junior College and the University of Belize and has an Associate’s Degree in Environmental Science. Adrian and his wife Monique live in Belize City with their two young daughters. He has a servant’s heart for the people of Belize, and is skilled at providing transformational service experiences for visiting teams.

 “I am excited about the work PathLight is doing to serve the people of Belize, and I am honored to be a part of it,” says Adrian.

"Adding Adrian to our team is a big win for PathLight. His love for Christ, his engaging personality, his network of relationships throughout Belize, and his gifts of hospitality and leadership will be a tremendous blessing to all who visit Belize," says PathLight CEO, Roger Dermody. 

For more of what Pathlight is doing, to visit Belize, become a sponsor, or to receive regular updates, please visit www.pathlight.org.

PathLight International Appoints Nilda Muschamp as First Belizean Teacher Trainer


PathLight International announces that Nilda Muschamp has joined the CA-based nonprofit as Associate Teacher Trainer. Nilda joins PathLight after over 30 years as an educator in the Belize Ministry of Education.  She has taught at all grade levels from primary school to university and has also been a primary school principal.  Most recently Nilda served as countrywide math and science curriculum coordinator for the Ministry of Education. 

PathLight’s Teacher Training program equips Belizean teachers with skills for success, inspiring hope for every child through the power of a vibrant faith and a dynamic learning environment. In her position with PathLight, Nilda brings invaluable knowledge and contacts within Belize’s education infrastructure.  She will assist, train and support teachers and administrators throughout Belize with year-round school-site support, workshops, small-group mentoring and summer training conferences.

An active volunteer, Nilda has served as an assessor for the Associate Degree Program for Belizean teachers, as part of the Teacher Education Development Services (TEDS) department.  She served as countrywide trainer for Lions Quest International, equipping teachers to help create capable young people with character.  Previously, Nilda was program coordinator for Belize Hope, and most recently she served as volunteer program coordinator for PathLight in Belize City.

Nilda is a devoted Christian and the proud mother of three children and one grandson.  She is passionate about youth development and education, and is a champion for the educators and youth of Belize.

“I am excited about the work PathLight is doing to help change the educational ecosystem in Belize, and I am honored to be a part of it,” says Nilda.

“I am both thrilled and honored to have Nilda join our staff. Part of PathLight’s long-term commitment is to turn ministry leadership over to capable Belizeans. Nilda is our very first Belizean teacher trainer. She brings a love for Christ, a passion for education, and a wealth of experience to our team, ” says PathLight CEO, Roger Dermody. 

For more of what Pathlight is doing, to become a sponsor, visit Belize, or to receive regular updates, please visit www.pathlight.org.

PathLight Expands to Belize City

We are very excited to formally announce our expansion to Belize City.

Last Monday, as students gathered after their first day back to school in our new Belize City PathLight offices, we celebrated the culmination of a one-year process and the beginning of a new era for PathLight. 

About a year ago, we began to sense that God was opening various doors for PathLight to make an even bigger impact in Belize. Our team visited each District in Belize, talking with High School and village leadership, members of the Ministry of Education, assessing the needs and opportunities for us to expand. Simultaneously, we got to know the ministry of Belize Hope led by Executive Director Laura Connelly. This ministry was quite similar in mission to PathLight, serving one of the most challenging areas in Belize. Soon thereafter, we began talking about joining forces with Belize Hope, as it became apparent that our expansion would be most strategically directed toward Belize City. 

Last month, We finalized the process of Belize Hope coming under the PathLight umbrella. In addition to getting to know the eighteen Belize Hope students who have now formally become PathLight students, we got to know the wonderful Belize Hope staff and volunteers. They likewise have become part of our growing PathLight family, and we are thrilled to share our ministry with them.

In the coming months, we'll tell you more about the various staffing changes as a result of our expansion, and more about our plans for the future. For now, we praise God for the privilege of serving the students, families, schools and teachers of Belize City. Please pray for our newest PathLight students. Pray for their success in school, and their daily safety in some of Belize's most challenging neighborhoods. Pray for our dedicated team of new mentors (Aly, Brian, Silvia and Tyron - led by Dion Rodriguez and Mariam Banner). Pray that our new Belize City office and student center would be a place of joy, peace, study, discipleship and outreach. Please join us in giving thanks for all that God has done and continues to do through PathLight. Thank you for helping to make all of this possible.

Thank You

Three weeks ago, we got news that Hurricane Earl was headed toward Belize. We quickly put together a website and campaign, to begin funding our relief effort. The hurricane caused considerable damage to Belize, but the PathLight team was there to help.

We wanted to say THANK YOU. Your generosity has allowed us to make sure that all 118 current PathLight families and all recent graduates are okay, specifically providing 19 mattresses to 9 families, seed and crop spray for 3 families, 1 refrigerator, 2 stoves, repair 6 houses (new roofs, walls, etc.), 15 chickens and feed, immediate food for 18 families, ongoing food (2 months) for 5 families, and much more. We couldn’t have done it without you.

The relief effort is not over. We still have a long road to recovery, but we wanted to thank you on behalf of all of the families in Belize for your radical love and generosity. You're making a difference. 

And our work in Belize continues! The new school year has just begun, and we've expanded into Belize City. This has required us to lease a 2nd office and hire 4 new student mentors. If you would like to continue to fund the work we are doing in Belize, please visit PathLight.org/donate.

Poverty Does Not Surrender

It was a calm Friday morning at the PathLight office in Belize – well, as calm as could be expected when dozens of students were coming by to pick up their textbooks. Orderly and focused, the students were full of smiles as the PathLight mentors guided them through the process. I was with my wife D’Aun and a group of friends who joined us so they could see what PathLight was doing to help students like these.

Dennis Thomas, PathLight’s Belize Field Director, gathered my friends into a private room to share a few thoughts. He told us about the challenges a teenager faces when growing up in this developing country, and how the PathLight mentors are the first and often only resource to help during these struggles. We heard about families without food to eat, children walking over an hour to catch a bus so they could get to school, predators taking advantage of the unprotected, and all the other assorted hassles of growing up in poverty.

Then Dennis said something that encapsulated the whole frustrating situation in one simple sentence:

“Poverty does not surrender.”

The room went still and quieted as the power of those words sank in. The muffled voices of mentors and students could be heard in the adjacent room as the air conditioner hummed outside the window. A few of us stared at Dennis, waiting for him to continue, but he paused to make sure everybody got the point.

“Poverty does not surrender.”

Every student in the PathLight Sponsorship+ program has a different experience, but the pattern is clear: two steps forward, one step back…two steps forward, two steps back…one step forward...pause…repeat.

“Poverty does not surrender.”

The unrelenting grasp of poverty holds on to these students. Progress is slow. A student with excellent academic scores is forced into taking a day job to support his family. Another is told she must stay home to watch her younger siblings. One is robbed and beaten on the long walk to the bus stop, while another cries in the arms of a mentor because she hasn’t had a good meal in days. The PathLight team in Belize works incredibly hard to serve these students and their families. But each small win is often followed by a setback.

“Poverty does not surrender.”

Little did we know that calm Friday morning, Hurricane Earl would arrive just four days later. Homes would be destroyed, valuables lost, floodwaters would devastate crops. Some would be left with nearly nothing, back to square one.

“Poverty does not surrender.”

And yet somehow, mysteriously, implausibly, hope survives. It’s remarkable, really. The passage in Romans about “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” comes alive at a time like this.

You see the hope in our mentors – some of who lost much during the storm – and you see hope in the students. You see hope in the teachers, the communities, and the leaders who step forward during times of trial. You see the hope in a new metal roof, a fresh dry set of bedding, the replacement of an old stove, and a 50 lb. bag of seed ready to be planted.

Poverty may never surrender, but neither will the people of PathLight. Each step forward is celebrated. Each step back is met with renewed determination.

Poverty may never surrender, but neither will the people who support PathLight. One gift at a time, one rejection of poverty in every act of generosity.

Poverty may never surrender, but then neither does God. Always present, always compassionate, always strong.

It’s true, poverty will not surrender. But poverty can be beaten. Two steps forward, one step back…repeat.

PathLight CEO Discusses Hurricane Earl

I suspect all of you heard about Hurricane Earl hitting Belize Wednesday evening, August 3rd. My youngest daughter Kayla and I were in Belize when Earl slammed into this wonderful country - a country full of so many friends and the home of the ministry we love and call PathLight. With us were the President and Treasurer of PathLight's new University of Kentucky student chapter, leading a conversational English adventure camp for our newest PathLight students.

As news of Earl's potential grew more dire, the decision was made to evacuate Jaguar Creek (JC), and relocate in the homes of several of our staff in Belmopan. The JC staff did an outstanding job securing the resort for the impending storm. Our team also made contact with a number of our most vulnerable Sponsorship+ families living in South Belize City, bringing them to safer accommodations with us in Belmopan. We gassed up all the vehicles. We bought extra food and supplies, and braced ourselves for Earl to hit the country. 

Wednesday night was long, frightening, anxious, sleepless and loud. Earl slowed down as it hit Belize with 85 mph winds at about 11:30 pm, lingering for almost six hours. While rain totals were lower than forecast, wind and storm surge damage was extensive. By sun-up, the winds finally began to diminish, and we made plans to go visit as many of our students as possible. 

One crew deployed northwest towards Cotton Tree and St. Matthew's. My crew traveled deeper into the Belizean rainforest towards Jaguar Creek and the villages of Armenia and St. Margaret's. We drove around countless fallen trees, and work teams already working to clear the roads. Hills once lush with thick jungle foliage only yesterday were now far more barren with tangled knots of branches and limbs. Jaguar Creek could only be reached by literally swimming through the extensive flooding of the Cave's Branch river. One cabana was lost. Another suffered significant damage, as did several elevated walkways. The most heartbreaking loss was the giant 100 year-old fig tree with the beautiful roots that had long been the centerpiece of JC - now laying fallen. However, the damage could have been far worse and most thankfully no one was injured.

As we continued visiting students home to home, we encountered incredible resiliency even amidst devastating loss. All of our kids and their families were safe. Every family was busy cleaning up mud, limbs and debris, trying in vain to dry clothing and bedding in the thick humid air. Several lost roofs. Four families lost almost everything. I found myself so moved by the harsh reality faced by these students whom I have grown so fond of. They cannot call their Allstate agent. There is no FEMA to step in and help them clean up. No one will compensate them for the sudden loss of livelihood (some who sold fruit lost their trees; one disabled dad now must replace the room he rented out for income; everything several owned was now thoroughly soaked, including all beds, covers & mattresses, and they have no means to go purchase a new mattress to sleep on. These children, who look so put-together in their clean school uniforms, live day to day in a form of poverty that I cannot imagine living with. Add the ravages of a category one hurricane and they face challenges I cannot fathom. 

Friday we traveled to Belize City in order to visit the homes of a number of our South Belize City students. There, the flooding had been significant. Most of the damage was largely due to the storm surge, leaving many residents under four feet of water. Once again, roofs were missing, personal belongings and bedding were soaked and already molding. There was open sewage flowing in drainage culverts. Mosquitos and infestation are close behind. It is hard to fully grasp what it would be like to adequately recover and put your life back together in these conditions, much less to live day to day.

The PathLight team is doing a wonderful job caring for each student and family. They are giving hope to people trapped by the ravages of poverty. The team developed a list of needs for each family, and already they have begun to respond to the most critical needs first. We do so by faith, reliant upon you our donors to help provide the resources necessary to help repair broken buildings and assist our Belizean friends in their extensive recovery efforts. While PathLight's mission is to give hope to every child through the power of a dynamic faith and a vibrant learning environment, we are also called upon to care for those whom we serve amidst tragedy, loss and need.

Would you please consider an extra gift to PathLight? Your gift of $50, $100, $250 or more can make a huge difference to a family with nothing. Our PathLight team is on the ground in Belize, and right now 100% of your gift will be used for relief efforts.