Full Basket Belize is a volunteer-run organization founded by a handful of former Peace Corps and other volunteers and funded by the donations of generous souls just like yourself. Most of us (but not all) volunteered, worked, vacationed, and/or lived in Belize at some point. Some of us still do.
Day-to-day operations are handled by a small group of volunteers, listed below. If you’d like to lend a hand, please contact us and let us know. If you don’t have the time to volunteer but would like to donate, you can do so online by clicking on the DONATE button at left or by sending a check to Full Basket Belize, P.O. Box 29021, Portland OR 97296 USA.
Board of Directors, 2014 - 2016
Jo Link – President, Scholarships Co-Chair
Jo Link is a retired math and computer science secondary school teacher from Hawaii. In 2000 she and her husband Bob joined the Peace Corps and were assigned to Belize as Information Technology Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). They spent two years in Belmopan, Belize, where Jo taught computer literacy to public school teachers and English to Spanish-speaking refugees from other Central American countries. In addition, Jo was co-editor of the PCV quarterly magazine, “Toucan Times,” and served as head of the Volunteer Advisory Council (VAC). She now lives in Portland, Oregon, with Bob and spends lots of time with their five grandchildren. She has served on the Full Basket Belize Board of Directors for the last four years as communications director, scholarship director, elections committee chair, and president.
Kristi Drexler – Vice President
Kristi Drexler served as a Peace Corps volunteer in San Ignacio, Belize, from 1997-1999 in environmental education. She assisted with field research at Las Cuevas research station (near Caracol) and helped train Conservation Officers for the Forestry Department in environmental education and co-management of protected areas. She earned a Master’s degree at Ohio University and now instructs courses full-time with American Public University. In Las Cruces, Kristi founded the Faculty-Led International Program “FLiP” office (modeled on her Belize Field School Program) at New Mexico State University. She coordinates accredited field courses to Belize and other countries annually in the areas of wildlife science; marine ecology; primate behavior; archaeology; entomology; agriculture; film and documentary-making; animal science and wildlife veterinary science; hotel, restaurant and tourism management; international business; history; public health; and service learning.
Katie Meehan – Secretary
Katie Meehan served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize (2000-2002) and Guatemala (2002-2003), working in environmental education and rural community development. Following Peace Corps, Meehan earned her master’s degree in environmental management from Oxford University and her PhD in geography from the University of Arizona. She now works as a professor in geography at the University of Oregon.
Jeffrey Cleveland – Treasurer
Jeffrey Cleveland served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Punta Gorda, from 1997-1999, in Small Business Development. He taught the first business programs at the University (College) of Belize’s Toledo Campus during its first two start-up years and also developed and taught Outreach Programs for the local business owners. Jeffrey extended his Close of Service (COS) date by two months so that he could watch “his kids” become the first graduating class from the Toledo Campus. Following his return to the States, Jeffrey became involved with a non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on substance abuse prevention for minors. He continues to works for this organization remotely from a mountain in North Central New Mexico where he is building a house.
Ron Herring – Project Grants Co-Chair
Ron Herring spent 18 years as a manager and executive in national manufacturing, service and retail corporations in the western U.S. From 1988 to 2005 he was a small business owner/operator and small business consultant in Portland, Oregon. Ron participated on the Board of Directors of the Visitors and Convention Bureau of Washington County, Oregon, for seven years, serving as President in 1997-98. He has also been an active member of service clubs, supporting fundraising for international projects and assisting with local environmental projects.
Since 1988, Ron has been travelling to Belize several times a year, providing support to Green Reef in Belize and CORAL in the U.S., non-governmental organizations dedicated to the protection of the environment and conservation of barrier reefs. He has travelled extensively to all areas of Belize, with associates and personal friends throughout the country. Ron started the REEF ADVENTURES dive shop in San Pedro Town with Belizean partner and PADI Dive Instructor, Ched Cabral, in 2000. Ron and the dive shop continue to support Belizeans as well as Peace Corps volunteers and their families.
Ron is the owner and managing director of St. George’s Caye Resort in Belize, from which he supports a scholarship program for Belizeans. He is currently working on a program to match resources from outside Belize to needs in the country with the goal of creating opportunity for more young Belizeans. Ron resides in Portland, Oregon.
David Lansing – Newsletter Editor
David Lansing was a Peace Corp volunteer from 2000-02 serving in Belize City, and later, Seine Bight. After Peace Corps he married Stephanie Lipe (RPCV Belize 2000-02) and enrolled in graduate school in Geography at Ohio State University, where I conducted Master’s fieldwork among Garifuna fishing communities affected by the Cayos Cochinos Marine Protected Area in Honduras. He completed my PhD at Ohio State based on 18 months of fieldwork in the Talamanca Indigenous Reserve in Costa Rica, studying the impact of carbon offset projects among Bribri and Cabécar farmers. He is currently an assistant professor in the Geography Department at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. His time in Belize inculcated a lifelong interest in environment and development issues among indigenous peoples. It also catalyzed a career that has happily kept him doing work in Central America, but sadly, not in Belize. David would like to reverse this trend a bit and re-engage with the people and issues in Belize as a board member of Full Basket Belize.
Brandon Kitagawa – Project Grants Co-Chair
Brandon Kitagawa served as a Peace Corps Volunteer working on environmental education and marine conservation at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize from 1999-2001. While living in Belize, Brandon gained an appreciation for the unique potential and challenges of development in Belize. Brandon credits his time in Belize for directing him towards work that connects communities to public policy. He spent almost four years as a community organizer working with neighborhoods in Sacramento, California and currently works on environmental health/public health policy related to asthma in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has volunteered with FBB since 2005 to help coordinate FBB’s grants program and has served on the Board of Directors since 2010.
Erin McCool – Scholarships Co-Chair
Erin McCool served as an environmental education volunteer in Golden Stream Village, Belize, from 2001-2003. During her service she worked with the locally run Ya’axche Conservation Trust to create a conservation curriculum for elementary schools In the Southern District of Belize. Erin also worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross after Hurricane Iris blew through, leaving many families homeless and without a food crop for the year. Following her service in the Peace Corps, Erin attended law school at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. After graduation in 2006, she moved to Portland, Oregon, to clerk for the honorable Rex Armstrong on the Oregon Court of Appeals. She currently works as an employment and civil rights litigator representing only plaintiffs in claims of disability, racial, and gender discrimination. Erin lives with her husband Paul and their three cats.
Charlotte Usher Nal – Fundraising
Charlotte Usher Nal is a native of Belize. Charlotte returned to Belize in 2000 with her children for a year where she worked with National Committee for Families and Children as a Project Consultant. During that time Charlotte wrote a consultancy for UNICEF on the “Social Impact of Hurricane Keith on Families and Children.” Charlotte has a Bachelor’s in Sociology from Cameron University and a Master’s degree in Non-Profit Management from Regis University. Charlotte worked almost 12 years for Community Partnership for Child Development in the role of Family Service Assistant Manager and as the Strategic Initiative Liaison. During those years Charlotte worked closely with immigrant families, homeless families, and military families in forming partnership in the community and with the Head Start Community. She currently works as a Child Protective Service Investigator with the Department of Social and Human Services in Bremerton, Washington, while working on her Doctorate in Human Services.
Shannon White – Liaision
Shannon White served as a Business and Organizational Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Bermudian Landing, Belize, from 2010 to 2012 with the Community Baboon Sanctuary. Here she helped to implement sustainable community development projects in the Belize River Valley and co-founded an organization for at-risk youth in Burrell Boom. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, she worked as a Legislative Analyst for the Commonwealth of Virginia and is currently working in Washington, DC, for an association of human service organizations that helps nonprofit organizations reduce overhead expenses and redirect funding to mission-focused programs.
Patrick Parkinson – General Director
Patrick Parkinson graduated from Xavier University in May of 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a Major in History and Minors in International Studies and Peace Studies. While in college, Patrick took a special interest in the history of development, including the current neo-liberal era. He spent his final semester in Nicaragua participating in an Academic Service Learning Semester. There he lived in solidarity with a Nicaraguan family in Managua while taking 15 credit hours and volunteering 10 hours per week at Pajarito Azul, a social services home.
In June 2013 Patrick arrived in Belize to become a Peace Corps Volunteer and was sworn in that September along with 14 other volunteers as a member of the Belize Health 1 class. This group works on the Rural Family Health Project, where volunteers are partnered with community members in trying to bring about greater awareness on issues such as maternal/neonatal health and non-communicable diseases. Patrick currently serves in the Cayo district.
Sarah Reynolds – Contributorship, Legal Advisor
Sarah Reynolds served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Punta Gorda, Belize, from 2000 to 2002. Ms. Reynolds worked as a professor at the University of Belize – Toledo teaching courses for the University’s Natural Resource Management degree program. Ms. Reynolds also worked as a volunteer coordinator for the Belize Red Cross. Upon return from the Peace Corps, Ms. Reynolds attended law school at the University of Chicago. In 2003, she spent an additional summer in Belize City conducting legislation strategy research as a United Nations Development Program intern for Belize’s Coastal Zone Management Authority. Ms. Reynolds is currently working as a litigator at Mayer Brown in Chicago.
Jill Hepp – General Director
Jill Hepp served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2000-2002 in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize. While in Belize, she worked with the non-governmental organization Green Reef on coral reef conservation projects and environmental education. Having completed her Masters of Science in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development at the University of Maryland in 2005, Jill now works on the Pew Environmental Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign.
Kara Martinez – Associate Director
Kara Martinez served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize from 1999-2001, where she worked with the Ministry of Rural Development and Cornerstone Foundation in the Cayo District. She teaches international relations, development, and Latin American studies courses as an adjunct instructor for American Public University. She currently resides in the Denver metro area where she serves on the advocacy committee for the Denver Justice and Peace Committee, a grassroots nonprofit promoting human rights, economic justice and peace in Latin America through education and solidarity project peace in Latin America through education and solidarity projects. Kara holds a Bachelors degree in International Relations and a Masters degree in International Human Rights. Kara served as the newsletter editor and liaison for several years.
Leroy Almendarez – Associate Director
Dr. Leroy Almendarez is presently the owner and principal consultant of LA Consultancy, which provides services in leadership development and training, strategy development and management, and economic and business development. Over the last six plus years, he was the Director of Administration and Tariffs at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Since 2009, Dr. Almendarez has been invited as a Speaker at the Public Utility Research Center (PURC) of the Warrington School of Business of the University in Florida, Gainesville. He has been a presenter at training forums on leadership for Caribbean professionals and over the last 15 plus years has been a lecturer in Economics, Finance, Strategy and Policy, and Organizational Behaviour at several tertiary level institutions, including the University of Belize and the UWI Open Campus. Dr. Almendarez holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of the West Indies (UWI) and a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Leroy served as a Director of Full Basket Belize on two occasions.
Chris Minty – Associate Director
Chris Minty has spent most of his life living and working in some of the most remote parts of the World. There are few things that he enjoys more than being with a group of like-minded adventurers, preferably exploring the bio-diversity of some unspoiled place where their discoveries will help with its conservation. To date, Chris has been involved in over 30 expeditions - these have taken him around the world from the remote rainforests of Belize to the Three Gorges of China. Following a spell in the British Forces, Chris left to pursue a career in science, starting by completing a Master’s degree in Natural Resource Management at the University of Edinburgh. His love of fieldwork was clear from the outset as he led and worked on a series of expeditions there whilst also heading up ‘Exped’ – the University’s Expedition Planning and Advisory Society. In this role he organized five Expedition Planning Symposiums attended by over 5000 delegates. Not content with this, Chris then joined London’s Natural History Museum as the resident Research Station Manager at Las Cuevas in Belize. For 8 years Chris basically lived in the bush – either at the Station in its remote setting in the Chiquibul Forest or actually in the forests on expeditions. He has supported literally hundreds of science projects ranging from student study groups to the re-introduction into the wild of Harpy Eagles. He pioneered live-webcasts from the jungle and appeared in a National Geographic documentary. His outstanding achievements at Las Cuevas led to him being made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2007 for services to the conservation of the Belize rainforest.
Chris is now the Chief Executive of the Silvanus Trust, a UK-based charity dedicated to conserving forests and woodland (www.silvanus.org.uk).
updated 8 Sept 2014