Meeting and Photographing The First Lady of Belize, Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow

“So Lily, you’ve been in Belize all of two weeks, and now you’re on your way to the Prime Minister’s home, where most Belizeans have never been. How do you feel?”

Dyon, who is in charge of Media Relations for the Belize Tourism Board, is half-joking from behind the wheel, but we both realize it’s pretty mind-blowing.

While I may have expected some of the adventures awaiting me on my Matador Road Warrior gig in Belize, like caving or hiking up Mayan temples, I never expected this one.

Two weeks in Belize and I got to meet the First Lady, Mrs. Kim Simplis-Barrow. Not just meet her but spend two days with her, getting to know her, photographing her at her office, at home with her daughter and her husband Prime Minister Barrow, and on her site visits to a children’s home and to the hospital in Belize City where she’s helping build a new pediatric intensive care unit. I saw a woman who takes her role seriously and wants to make a difference in her country. A woman who is clearly beautiful on the outside, but cares more about what’s on the inside, and wants to continue making her mark on Belizean children’s lives.

“Education is the key” – that’s her main message through her Lifeline Foundation. With two Master’s Degrees under her belt, it’s a message she learned young, and it’s one I grew up with myself. My siblings and I always knew that if we wanted Dad to be happy and if we wanted to make something of our lives as he has with his, we had to not only do well in school but also make it at least through college. It wasn’t something that was up for discussion, it just was. As an adult, I can’t begin to imagine what my life would be like or where I’d be today if my father hadn’t had the will and determination to get an education, walking miles and miles to school every single day, despite his humble origins as a young boy from the village of Endebir in Ethiopia.

When I first laid eyes on Mrs. Barrow, I was stunned. She may as well have come straight out of the pages of Vogue. I even meant to ask her if she was related to Liya Kebede! Same tower height, similar features, so model-esque and gracious. But speak to her and she’s the most down to earth and approachable person you’ll meet. Who else brings Belizean Kakaw or chocolate for their photographer? 🙂

The final images – I wish I could share with you all but you’ll have to be a little patient as they have a special purpose.

The past couple of days have been interesting, inspiring, eye-opening and an absolute treat. It was an honor to photograph the First Lady and her family. All thanks to Julie Schwietert, Managing Editor of Matador Travel and creator of the awesome Road Warrior Program, who needed photos of Mrs. Barrow for one of her important projects and entrusted me with the task.

An unforgettable experience for sure; I can’t even imagine what other surprises are in store over my next ten weeks in Belize!

Sitting across from Mrs. Barrow at Belize City restaurant "Celebrity," where she kindly treated me to lunch after the morning shoot.

End of a two-day shoot - time for my own photo with the lovely Mrs. Barrow and her family.


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Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning, Ethiopian-American travel writer, photographer and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Moon Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic (October 2016). Her work focuses on Caribbean culture and adventure, and has been published in AFAR, CNN Travel, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and Every Day With Rachael Ray, among many others. Lily is also the 2016 recipient of the Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism for her Caribbean coverage, from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–she speaks four languages fluently and has lived in Cote d’Ivoire, England, Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic and traveled to some 30+ countries around the world. Last but not least, she is a former corporate attorney who ditched her Washington DC office for the road in 2009 to pursue her dream of becoming a storyteller.
Lily holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish (summa cum laude) from the University of Maryland at College Park, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law.

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  1. Seveen 27 July, 2011 at 6:05 PM #

    she absolutely glows!

  2. Lebawit Lily Girma 27 July, 2011 at 6:28 PM #

    She does! She was truly a wonderful and inspriing person to meet and talk to, and on top of it, beautiful to photograph.

  3. Julie 27 July, 2011 at 10:32 PM #


    The photos are gorgeous and I’m really thrilled you had this experience!

  4. Pete Heck 28 July, 2011 at 3:27 AM #

    Beautiful family and photos, and what a wonderful experience for yourself. Looking forward to seeing the photos with a special purpose.

  5. Sophie 28 July, 2011 at 4:49 AM #

    What fun! Belize looks so interesting.

  6. Andrea 28 July, 2011 at 8:08 AM #

    What an amazing experience – congrats on a beautiful interview and photos!

  7. Lebawit Lily Girma 28 July, 2011 at 10:01 AM #

    Julie, thanks so much!! It was awesome.

    Pete, thanks much and I look forward to sharing them as well. 🙂

    Sophie, Belize has been fascinating so far. Culture and adventure overload, and photography overload too!

    Thanks Andrea! Julie did the formal interview, and I can’t wait to read it. I got to spend a lot of informal time with Mrs. Barrow in between shoots and she has a wonderful spirit.

  8. Jim Scott 28 July, 2011 at 5:47 PM #

    Yes Lilly, you’ve grabbed our attention with the photo “hurry up and wait” slight of hand move. Lovely photo of the girls being girls! And nice story. Thank you for sharing.

    Jim “the humble inn keeper” Scott

  9. Lebawit Lily Girma 29 July, 2011 at 12:11 AM #

    Jim! What a nice surprise. Thank you for making the time to stop by and for your comments! 🙂 Hope to have that delicious watermelon juice at your “humble inn” again some day soon!

  10. Raymond @Manonthelam 30 July, 2011 at 12:05 PM #

    Wow! What a great opportunity! And she sounds like a great woman too!

  11. Candice 5 August, 2011 at 12:08 PM #

    What an experience! Amazing.

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  1. […] came the unexpected – an assignment to photograph the First Lady of Belize, Mrs. Kim Barrow, and her family – so I returned to Belize City for a couple of days. After that, off to Maruba Spa, still in […]

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