The Lakeland community can lend a hand — and books — for a People to People humanitarian effort in Belize. 

“Books for Belize” has a goal of collecting 100 pounds of books by March 1. 

The effort to help was the desire of couple Jeff and Jillayne Waite of Arbor Vitae. Years ago, the couple had visited Belize, (Benque Viejo del Carment) where they visited a library.

“As we walked into the library we were amazed at the number of  books — few — and the number of children — lots,” Jillayne Waite said. “There were maybe 200 books in the building that could easily hold thousands.”

Benque Viegjo Library in Benque Viejo Del Carmen is a “peaceful, Spanish-speaking Mestizo community on the Eastern bank of the Mopan River in the Western part of Belize at the border with Guatemala.” 

“Amidst this setting is Benque’s Public Library, a hive of activity especially after school,” Waite said.

The library goes back to the late 1950s when the then-chief librarian, Leo Bradley, saw the need of a sub-library and made the necessary arrangements for its inception. The little sub-library opened two hours daily from 4 to 6 p.m. until 1976, when it became a branch library with full-time hours. When a library committee was formed in 1996, one of its main goals was construction of a new library, Waite explained.      

After speaking with the librarian during their trip, the Waites learned more about the situation.

“We talked with the librarian and asked what the need was,” Waite said. “She shared with us the reality that many parents could not read and were learning to read along with their children. The need for books was overwhelming. They survive on a shoestring budget and rely on donations for most everything. We told her that we would come back and bring books.”

After returning home, however, the Waite family endured the tragedy of losing their daughter, Jennifer Waite, after more than a decade-long battle with Lyme Disease.

The book project was set aside, but never forgotten. 

Now, the family hopes to return over spring break with their grandson, Jenn’s son, Zach Kane, to help the Belize library. 

“We … have set a goal at 100 pounds of books,” Waite said. Each family member will have to carry several pounds. 

Area communities are invited to help. The Waite family aims to enlist libraries in Minocqua, Rhinelander and Manitowish Waters, where a marked box will allow patrons to donate.

“If each library collects a box full of books we should be able to fill a few shelves,” Waite said. 

Books should be suitable for fifth grade to young adult reading levels.