did you personally become an environmental activist protecting
the concerns of Belize on the world stage?
Wil Maheia: I really do not
consider myself an environmental activist. I consider myself
a concerned Belizean and want to do whatever I can to make Belize
and the world a better place to live. I do this by promoting
sustainable development and helping to conserve the rich biodiversity
of our area.
do you address accusations that NGO's protect the lands but
do not protect the concerns of Belizeans who no longer have
access to vast tracts of their own country for commercial development?
Wil Maheia: You will see my
answer to your previous question. But I believe the proof is
in the pudding as we have generated thousands of dollars for
people in the district through our programs for sustainable
development. And almost one hundred percent of our employees
are born and bred in the Toledo District. Besides, there are
many others who generate and earn an income because of the work
we do. So really, I do not know where that accusation originates
and I know of no land tract that has been taken away from the
people by the NGO's.
is TIDE doing
to educate the youth of Belize to prepare them and their country
for the future conflicts that will await them between balancing
commercial and ecological preservation and conservation?
Wil Maheia: TIDE has a very
successful summer camp for youths. This program helps educate
and bring awareness of our environment and resources to the
kids. The kids learn about the local ecosystems and visit these
areas firsthand. Anyone who would like to donate to this project
can contact us to make a donation and help fund this worthy
cause. Every year, we take hundreds of students and teachers
out in the field to see our areas of work. It's a learning experience
for everyone that comes with us. We also sponsor a scholarship
program by helping to cover school expenses for a youth's education,
in exchange for a more sustainable method of fishing by his/her
will the current governmental fiscal restraints challenge the
mission of TIDE and other in-country NGO's?
Wil Maheia: It's going to
be hard but we've got to stay positive and hope others will
you tell us a highlight to date of your life as the executive
director, Toledo Institute of Development and the Environment
(TIDE) in Belize?
Wil Maheia: There are many
highlights. One is to see the kids that we send to school graduate.
For the most part, these are first generation highschoolers
and so they are the first ones in their families to make it
that far in school. That to me is job satisfaction. Other highlights
would include the day the Debt for Nature Swap Agreement was
signed and the declaration of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.
Both of those achievements took lots of work. Also, I would
like to see the day when fishers and hunters turn into conservationists
and at the same time, increase their economic standings by tenfold.
People are better off economically, socially, and environmentally
as a result of our work. That's a rewarding highlight.
you tell us a highlight of your personal life?
Wil Maheia: Of course, the
birth of my kids ranks as the most important personal highlight.
But I have a highlight everyday when I wake up and look forward
to going to work in the best darn area of the world. Yesterday
I was on the boat and the weather was perfect and as far as
my eyes can see in all directions, there was not a single person
to be seen but the beauty of the world as the world should be.
I am lucky!
an occupation working outdoors is obviously demanding, both
mentally and physically. What do you do to keep in shape? What
is your favourite past-time occupation?
Wil Maheia: Two days ago,
I hiked about 20 miles. It's good therapy for me and it was
all through very nice forest. I saw lots of animal tracks and
not too long ago, I saw a jaguar.
What is the greatest outdoor adventure you ever experienced
Wil Maheia: Wow, that's hard
to say. I'd have to mention the time I was swimming within inches
of a whale shark's mouth or being within meters of a jaguar
in the wild. It's difficult to single out a particular event.
I am a lucky guy.
is your most favourite Belizean food dish? What is your most
favourite locally grown fruit and the most favourite vegetable?
Wil Maheia: I love food, especially
the East Indian delights and I have many favorite fruits. Vegetables…I
always say that my mom made me eat all my vegetables between
the age of 1-10 so now I do not have to eat any. But if I have
to pick a favorite, I'd have to say the calaloo. It's a greens
and it goes well with rice.
Have you ever had the luck to see and of Belize's exotic wildlife
such as a jaguar, tapir or the like? Have you ever been bitten
by a scorpion, snake or spider?
Wil Maheia: I am very lucky.
I have seen them all and escaped them all. Just a lucky guy
as I've come close to danger at times.
Which of the Belize Maya archaeological sites have you visited?
Which site was the most fascinating for you?
Wil Maheia: I believe that
I have visited every excavated site, from Cerros in the North
to Uxbenca in the South. And I must say that Caracol has got
to be the most outstanding Maya site, followed by Xunantunich.
What would you consider to be the greatest asset of Belize?
Wil Maheia: Without a doubt,
its people and natural resources.
What are the top three books we should all read in our lifetime?
Wil Maheia: Malcolm X, Silent
Springs by Rachel Carson, and any works by John Muir. Also Fire
from the Mountain, written by a Sandinista out of Nicaragua.
Who would be on your list of favourite Belizean artists, writers
or musicians? Who would be on your list of favourite non-Belizean
artists, writers or musicians? What kind of music do you like
to listen to?
Wil Maheia: To everyone's
surprise, the arts is not one of my specialty fields. But I
do enjoy good music and I like the local Paul Nabor who lives
in my town and the Umalali Drummers. Anyone visiting Belize
should hear them. They are awesome. I also like Bob Marley and
Johnny Cash. Since I'm out in the fields a lot, I don't get
to listen to much music, unless there's good reception from
the radio tower.
would you answer the question "What is Belizean Culture?"
Wil Maheia: It's a combination
and mix of almost everything.
Belize is so ecologically diverse with natural beauty abundant.
What do you consider the most beautiful spot in all of Belize?
Wil Maheia: How about my office?
I consider the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor as my office. It's
close to a million acres of land and a thousand square miles
of sea. Other than that, that's a hard question because there
are so many beautiful areas here in this little piece of mother
What is your favourite vacation spot outside of Belize?
Wil Maheia: I never take a
vacation because my work is a vacation.
What do you consider the biggest challenge for Belize and Belizeans
in the 21st century?
Wil Maheia: We have to educate
the public. And that must be done because I believe the only
way to get rid of poverty is to get rid of ignorance.
What would you most want someone reading this article to remember
about what Wil Maheia has to say?
Wil Maheia: Wil Maheia loves
Belize so much that no job in the world can take him out of
Belize, especially out of the Toledo District.