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Inspired to Love: Championing Belize’s Children

by Gail Scott

Recently, the wife of Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Kim Simplis Barrow, came to Washington on an interesting mission. As her country’s special envoy for women and children and the first Belizean to be designated a global ambassador by Special Olympics, she headlined a gala to benefit the children of Belize.

“Inspired to Love,” held Feb. 16 at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, raised $35,000.

Nestor Mendez, Belize’s ambassador to the United States and Organization of American States, said the first lady’s goal is to ultimately raise $1 million. “We’re on our way,” he said.

Photos: Gail Scott

Kim Simplis-Barrow, wife of the prime minister of Belize and a special envoy for women and children, center, is joined by Ambassador of Belize Nestor Mendez and his wife Elvira, president of the Organization of Women of the Americas, at “Inspired to Love,” a gala to benefit the children of Belize held at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington.

Maureen Bunyan of ABC7/WJLA-TV served as mistress of ceremonies for the $250-a-person gala dinner that featured a tasting of Belizean wines and an extensive live auction. A Caribbean native herself, Bunyan was born in Aruba and is of Guyanese descent.

“I expect this year to be a big fundraising year for my office,” Simplis Barrow told the Diplomatic Pouch, noting two major construction projects that are already under way: the Inspiration Center, a community-based program for disadvantaged children and adolescents in the poorest areas of Belize, and a pediatric intensive care unit at the country’s National Referral Hospital. That’s why she’s working to raise $1 million — to finish the two projects and get them operational.

“The idea to help others simply came from seeing the need that exists in my country” she explained, “and knowing that in a developing nation like ours, we can’t just wait for the government to do everything. I believe that to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Liliana Ayalde, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, covering Cuba, Central America and the Caribbean, left, joins Kim Simplis Barrow, wife of the prime minister of Belize and special envoy for women and children, at "Inspired to Love: A Gala to Benefit the Children of Belize."

Simplis Barrow, a breast cancer survivor who’s been open about her battle with the disease, said she has always felt a need to give back. A longtime community activist and advocate for children’s rights, she’s championed many causes, with a primary focus on children infected with HIV/AIDS, support for orphans, and nutrition programs.

“Actually, my charity work started long before I was diagnosed with cancer,” she explained. “I started the Lifeline Foundation in 2006 to assist disadvantaged children. We have been able to help children all around the country of Belize — those with medical needs, implemented feeding programs, built classrooms at existing schools, built proper toilet facilities for schools in remote areas of Belize, among many other projects.”

In 2008, Simplis Barrow became a Special Olympics global ambassador, joining the ranks of international personalities like Nelson Mandela and Bono.

Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the Organization of American States Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, left, and Russian journalist and gender specialist Irina Akimushkina attend a gala to benefit the children of Belize hosted by the wife of the prime minister of Belize and the Organization of Women of the Americas.

“I became much more active when I was appointed special envoy for women and children in 2009, so in October 2011, when I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer, most of my projects, including the Inspiration Center for children with disabilities and the pediatric intensive care unit at Belize’s National Referral Hospital, were already in the works. I had also been involved with the Belize Cancer Society.”

“Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow has become a symbol of strength and an inspiration for many people — not just in Belize [but] also abroad,” said Ambassador Mendez, joined by throngs of supporters and admirers at the Feb. 16 gala, including Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Tim Shriver.

“[During] her personal battle with cancer, the first lady encouraged women in Belize to be proactive in early detection, checks for breast cancer,” he added. “In the worst days of her battle with cancer, she never ceased to champion others.”

About the Author

Gail Scott is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat and Diplomatic Pouch.



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