“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 (for my editor’s magazine feature in a major print outlet).
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. I can’t even imagine what other surprises are in store over my next ten weeks in Belize.