It’s November and that means one thing for our collective mindset here at BCE: APPLES.
With our Apple for Kids fundraiser already in full motion, it is the perfect time to look back with gratitude to the partners, people that have given, and keep on giving this ministry a helping hand.
As we venture into our third year of the fundraiser, we are very aware of one thing: we can’t do it alone. As an ode to the people who have helped pave the way, we want to make known their efforts and tell the story of their benevolence. Entire businesses, people, and communities buy not only a box of apples but buy into the vision of Belize Changing Belize.
The ‘Apples for Kids’ fundraiser’s purpose is not only to help acquire funds to keep the ministry operating at full but with much emphasis on challenging the Belizean public to join us in the mission as well.
So we as a team dial back the calendar to 2019 reminiscing about the beginnings of the project, and it had its share of tumult, probably hidden in the graver things that have happened since- things like a global pandemic. But that year was in the midst of a prolonged drought that lasted about 2 years in the country. It affected farmers throughout the breadth of the nation.
A longstanding fundraising project for BCE has been Harvest for Kids (H4k). In this one, farmers throughout the country designate a field or some acreage from their farm and donate the harvest to BCE. But with the drought in question affected the yield of crops that year, it, in turn, affected the overall income from this fundraising initiative.
Meanwhile, Alexander, BCE’s Director, was away visiting supporters in Canada. There he came across a businessman selling fresh seasonal apples as a fundraiser for charity. It dawned on him that maybe BCE can get some apples and sell them to fundraise to support the ministry like these guys.
By God’s grace, the pieces started to come together. He already knew a farmer from the harvest for kids fundraiser, whose brother-in-law was an apple farmer in Mexico. They took a chance on us and a container of apples was credited to us, in faith that we would sell the apples and at least break even to pay them back. Soon enough we ended up with a container of apples at our doorstep ready to be sold. Sure there is a lot more nitty-gritty but that was a concise little backstory; a genesis about apples for kids.
Since our directors are still out on international assignments, I spoke to our full-time missionaries who have seen it and lived it all when it comes to the “Apples for Kids” fundraiser and got them to talk about our partners in this fundraiser.
In 2019 we got our first container of apples. We were still new to the whole process. We didn’t have the partnerships we now have. So back then we were grateful for the connections we had at Westrack. Ltd. They were gracious enough to let us use their garage space to park the container and distribute the apples there. We were a little worried about the apple spoiling. They need to be kept fresh. There’s no air conditioning in the garage as it was open to the air. The apples do come cold since the container has air conditioning inside, but once you take them out it’s only a matter of time until they spoil. So the challenge for next year was to figure out how to keep them cold.
Another challenge was to figure how to distribute them quickly and effectively throughout the country. The first year we had individuals we knew who were so kind to allow us to use their vehicles and volunteer to take them to the communities they are from. After this learning experience, our goal was to resolve these needs for the next year.
How can we hold the apples and keep them fresh?
And that’s where the idea came and led us to a key partner in our Apples for Kids fundraiser. Caribbean Chicken and has been a faithful supporter of BCE. They also have freezers. What if we partner with them and they can give us some space in their freezers?
They graciously agreed to get on board. We were thinking that apples would go to Blue Creek where the Caribbean Chicken main branch is. But they decided to graciously take extra measures.
They told us, we just made a new branch in Belmopan and the freezer is newer. It was just built and it’s better and it’s bigger. They had to remove their chicken from their freezer and try to find somewhere else for it. They gave us their freezer for almost five days. They emptied it and we could put all our apples there.
They also let us use their distribution branches across the country as pick-up locations. So if you’re from Orange Walk, you could go pick up your apples at the Caribbean Chicken in Orange Walk. They gave us space in each of their locations.
George Kornelson is one of the top managers of the main branch at Blue Creek, and he oversees a lot of what happens in the country. It was amazing to see someone like him, a top guy, volunteer his time. You see, they had also designated a refrigeration truck, like one of those big trucks that have air conditioning so that we could distribute the apples to all of the districts.
So we didn’t have to pay for gas, and we didn’t have to pay a driver because George said he would drive it for us. He volunteered his time and drove for two days.
He was working long hours because it was an entire two days of driving. It was just him and Ozni. But they didn’t just drive, they unloaded and loaded boxes ourselves. So when they reached a certain branch, they would have to unload it ourselves, with the odd bit of help from workers who also volunteered their time.
Another way that they helped us is through sales. We designed a flyer and they took it upon themselves to print the flyers and pay for whatever cost that would have been. Then they distributed the flyers to their drivers who would leave them all around the country.
During the days that we were distributing apples, George would consider his staff and say to himself ‘I think he’s a very good salesperson- just and give me five more boxes so that I can take it Corozal.’ Or ‘give me 15 more, I’ll send them to San Pedro.’ He was taking boxes in his responsibility, and he said that he’s going to sell them.
So it was amazing to see the Caribbean Chicken from top to bottom joining hands in this apple for Kids partnership, and going the extra mile.
There were some other companies that also helped us as a pickup location in some of the districts that don’t have a Caribbean Chicken branch.
Another friend and partner in the ministry are Reimer’s Feed Mill. Dangriga doesn’t have a branch yet, but there is a Reimers. So we talked to our friends at Reimer’s because we already have a relationship with them, through branding. Now it’s not just that they’re helping us with cereal, but now they’re helping us with being a pick-up location. And they also did buy apples.
Country Foods is another partner that we’ve done branding with before, with their Easter egg promotion. They were a pickup location for the Spanish Look Community. They helped us a lot because when we distributed from Belmopan to the rest of the country, we didn’t have to load a truck to go to Spanish Lookout because country foods sent a truck to Belmopan to pick up the boxes and take them back to Spanish Lookout.
Another company that joined us was Quality Poultry. They bought a significant amount of boxes to resell. But I think the way that they went about selling them was very admirable because not a lot of people would have done it the way that they were doing it. They took their apples and they spread them throughout the Quality Poultry branches in the country and in their shops. They made a space, took out tables, and they started selling the apples not by boxes, but by retail. They bagged it themselves, 5-6 in a pack, and laid it out nicely on the table. They took off the stickers that were on the boxes and stuck them to the table, making a little display for BCE in their shops. We didn’t ask them to do that, they did that by themselves and would look very presentable.
For us, these are a few of the key players in our Apple for Kids fundraiser whose efforts were worth mentioning. There are plenty more individuals whose names would be too plenty to jot down here. Everyone who bought a box or two, together adds up to make this project a reality. They too are partners in this which ultimately allows a message of hope to continue to be brought to the children of the city.
It’s a nationwide project bringing together all Belizeans to not only buy or sell apples but see the vision of Belize changing Belize come to life.