• Belize
    • San Ignacio
Project Types
Women's Rights

Program Details



Price Details
The cost covers all program fees and accommodation including one midday meal per day.
Apr 14, 2016
Jul 27, 2016

About Program

The women of the Cayo District, in all their wonderful diversity, have one thing in common: a long history of nurturing their families in ways that have grown out of their Belizean traditions.

The Women's Program honors that tradition and builds upon it to empower women with the skills and knowledge of the 21st century. Empowering them helps them to help their families, and carries over to the health and well-being of the larger community. By benefiting women, the Women's Program benefits society as a whole.

Women in Belize and the Issues That Affect Women's Development:

* Financial dependency
* Inadequate education and vocational skills
* Size of families
* Domestic violence

These are all areas that are the focus for our ongoing women's projects.

Video and Photos

Program Reviews

4.6 Rating
based on 5 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 40%
  • 7-8 rating 0%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 60%
  • Impact 4.8
  • Support 4.2
  • Fun 3.8
  • Value 3.8
  • Safety 8.2
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

This organization should be flagged for scamming volunteers' out of their time and money

I scheduled to be here for one month doing the HIV/AIDS programs, and it ended up being the worst volunteer experience I’ve ever had. First of all, I was the only volunteer, and they left me in the place by myself after 2pm, and so I had to fend for myself for the rest of the day. Breakfast and dinner is not included in your fee. They said your program fee includes doing sight seeing but they will never take you anywhere. They even tried to over charge me and when I mentioned the mistake they acted surprised. They charged me 175 US dollars to pick me up from the airport and when i later told other tour companies they laughed and said I had been cheated because getting picked up in a 2002 four runner toyota does not cost that much one way. I thought the 175 included the way back to the airport as well, but they told me once I got there it did not, and acted surprised to think I would need a ride back to the airport.
I decided to pay them by week instead of all at once, and i am glad I did because I moved in with a host family a week later, and when I explained to the program manager that I was not going to stay by myself, they said they wished they had known earlier. Well, they only came once a week to pick up my money so how could i let them know. They said I still had to pay 75$ for lunch meals 5 times a week as well as the volunteer fee, except we did no volunteering so I did not understand the purpose of the fee.
They had sent me a schedule weeks ago because they had known I was coming, but every single day that I came in, I could tell there was no planning involved and no effort. Being the only volunteer, they pathetically tried to keep me “busy”, but whenever they do not have volunteers, they do absolutely nothing, which defeats the whole purpose of this organization that is funded by the government. They said I would be working with kids, but when I got there, i was told kids are not in school, which they obviously knew before.
Their HIV program is not a program. I am a go getter and worked really hard to do thing in the community such as outreach programs and advertising around town, and so Cornerstone cannot call their program an actual program because there is no planning or execution done throughout my time there unless the volunteers work really hard and basically do it themselves. I explained to the program manager that i want to volunteer my time and my money if I am also getting an educational experience, and they tried to fix things, but the next week ended up being the exact same. I have heard of several host families having volunteers from cornerstone and they almost always leave unhappy. I do not understand how they have some good reviews. After talking to the program manager I expected things to be better, but I come in the next day and another manager does not acknowledge my presence, and the staff member said I have to let them know when I'm ready to start the volunteering because if I don't then he sit by the computer all day. When I confronted the staff member, they seemed to be completely ignoring me as they deleted emails off the computer acting too busy to pay attention to me. The complaints go on and on but I really hope no volunteer ever has this experience. Whats the point of risking your time and money here after even one bad review.

8 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Awesome Staff and Programs

My experience with the Cornerstone Foundation was amazing and has taught me so many things that has helped me with my career, as well as personal growth. Orientation was really helpful because I got to know Cornerstone and the community better, the staff is always there to help and answer any questions you may have. I worked with the Feeding program, which provides children in need a meal. Through my experience I came to know the families and how much Cornerstone helps them. Cornerstone has a lot of programs and works a lot to empower their community. If you don't know what you would like to work in they will help you with a program choice as well. They are kind people and very helpful. I can say that the Cornerstone staff is my second family. They made me feel at home and I never felt scared, they helped me through my abroad process.

What would you improve about this program?
I would've liked to stay longer and help Cornerstone with their programs.
6 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing Experience

I have been volunteering with Cornerstone Foundation progressively for the past 3 years. (back and forth since 2012 till now, via online). We walked into the doors of Cornerstone Jan 19th 2012, as two soon to be college students that needed an internship to graduate. We were excited yet hesitant about studying abroad, by the time May came, we realize we benefited from the experience than we thought. Not only did we graduate, we had life changing experience of making lasting impacts of peoples life. For that, I will like to say thank you to Cornerstone. I was a community health student with global health concentration. After my experience, I enrolled in public health program for graduate school my experience with cornerstone impacted this decision very much. After my internship, I knew, I was in the right field. As Mrs Rita told me, in our field you work with your heart not your job description because most vulnerable people depends on you.
When we arrived, we had an orientation with the program coordinator who informed us about the different programs available, she told us about the do’s and don’ts of the organization then we on their culture and what to expect. Our orientation ended with a drive through town to help us familiarize with the town, (downtown, market, post office, police station, library)our main concern was groceries, they stopped for us to get our groceries and taught us how groceries stores functions so we don’t end up buying over priced items. After our orientation we met Mrs Rita Defour, she and the coordinator both asked about our major, our needs and expectations, we told them and gave them what our school required, weekly logs, agency summary, proposal for research study topic and of course a research project. Mine major demanded more than my friend’s but they worked with us to accommodate both our needs in meeting our academic goals. Like I said earlier to us we were there for grades. I was placed on the HIV/AIDS program. I recall Mrs Rita saying to us “we have very limited resources, bare with us, if you have new ideas and recommendations tell me, we need your skills more than you think so tell us how we can help you help us and our community”.
We were from New York, attended a State University, it was obvious our new environment was too slow for us, just as it was overwhelming. From Culture shock to different working environment and styles. We were use to deadlines and keeping our eyes on the price. Little did we know Belize was the opposite of what we were use to. I did presentations in different school, we did market outreach with the youth, we helped with the women’s program, we did condom distributions after the workers had left, we helped with fundraisers. We made somehow manage to find a balance to what we were use to and our new environment. They told us it was ok to work after they close if that worked for us so we did. That was how I gathered primary data for my research project. My project was to find out ways to reach out to the youth, empower them and educate them about HIV/AIDS and other risk behaviors. The results for the survey was very alarming to us. After discussing with the coordinator and Mrs Rita, the next step was to meet with National AIDS Commission, they never gave us the appointment. I was restless with my findings, so was my professors back home, and Mrs Rita, am sure she became tired of hearing me nag. She then asked I develop a curriculum for the youth, later, we realize we an merge the youth group and the HIV/AIDS program to use innovation and creativity to empower the youths. Beats for Life Belize was then implemented. It empowers through creativity and innovation, its done through music, dance, sport, skits, which the youths in Belize love. Instead of just attending to youth is school, the program focuses on the at risk youth that are drop outs and the community as a whole. We have had health fairs, jobs fairs and training, food drive on Christmas day, started peer educator program with the help of other volunteers in schools, fundraisers, and looking forward to doing more. I wrote a grant proposal, project proposal, business plan for a small business. We left Belize having than the most productive things in my life and the exciting part was, with very limited resources.
We had a shared room and a volunteer fridge in the kitchen. Our conflict was with some of the people we share space with. The new building also has a shared rooms, study area, kitchen, conference room and a much bigger space in the front. My experience with cornerstone stuff was more of a team work. My focus was on my work and achieving my goal, once I was booked for presentations and got help to plan my event I was fine and I got that help from the staff. I made list and assigned who does what and by when, its always been that way since I started there and every time I went back. They haven’t complained. If you are a young professional or student looking to make and impact and build on your experience, cornerstone is the place for you. You have the room to learn, and even in supervise your own work, although Mrs Rita will question you about its progress. I enjoyed that, it got me ready and prepared for the working environment back home.
My recommended go in with an objective mind and embraces the changes and differences as they come, it’s the only way to not get overwhelmed, annoyed or frustrated by the culture or the work ethics. Understand that all their holidays fall on Fridays and Mondays, and as a religious country, they observe lots of holidays that we may not find needed, respect and understand is their culture. Yes they close at 2pm but you don’t have to, I DIDN’T, you will enjoy your work with them.

8 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

Find another volunteer program.

I was very excited to find the Cornerstone Foundation because they appeared to have a lot of projects that interested me and the program fee was manageable. Three months was a long commitment, but I thought it would be an interesting experience.

When I arrived, no one was expecting my arrival. The room was not ready, there was no key available for the room, and I had only a brief tour of the housing with one of the other volunteers. I was not the only volunteer with this problem, and it is very awkward to arrive in a place after a long flight to a program that doesn’t know you are coming. This would be even more frustrating if you arrive outside of the very short business hours (10:00-2:00 Monday through Friday).

I arrived on a Monday and was not given orientation until Thursday. Orientation was a very brief introduction with the volunteer coordinator reading off a piece of paper. I met briefly with the director whose orientation was about 5 minutes long regarding payment. There was no discussion of possible volunteer opportunities.

The website makes it sound like there are many different programs and activities running, but the only program they have is the Feeding and Nutrition program. This program is very small (two women making rice for 60 children and handing it out at lunch), and although the cook will do her best to find you things to do, there really isn’t room for or a need for volunteers in this program.

To volunteer with Cornerstone, you either need to be highly motivated and find your own opportunities or you have to be fine with sitting around the volunteer house not doing anything. Do not expect Cornerstone to help you find projects…you will need to investigate the need and make the contacts in the community yourself (even though you would expect Cornerstone should be able to do this for you). They stress the need for self direction and guidance in their literature, however, I feel that they should at least be able to connect you with either a project or with key contacts in the community first. Volunteers should not be the ones needing to get into the community, identify the need, develop projects, and carry out projects. Cornerstone is a Belize-based company and should at least know what the needs of their community are. If you need volunteer hours and don’t actually want to do anything, this is a great way to do it as no one would know or care if you were just sitting around watching tv or out exploring the town.

Belizean culture is also challenging as presentations are consistently cancelled and no one shows up for your meetings. This doesn’t make you want to put any effort into things as none of your work will be used. These rules don’t apply to you…if you want to quit or don’t show up for something it is unacceptable and reflects poorly on Cornerstone. Beware that your program fee is nonrefundable.

The volunteer coordinator spends her days playing computer games, on facebook, or texting, which doesn’t provide much inspiration or motivation for the volunteers to do a lot of work. Cornerstone is also not appreciative of or interested in the work you might be doing. You have little to no contact with the director unless you initiate. It is really hard to be enthusiastic about making a difference when the employees are not even interested. They are not welcoming nor do they appear grateful that you have spent your time off and your money to come help.

I would never recommend this organization. I do not feel they are effective in their community nor are they supportive to their volunteers. It feels as if they just want your program fee, which is disheartening to those of us who spent our time and money to volunteer. Find another volunteer program.

7 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program


Cornerstone's website is very misleading, in that it appears as if there are several ongoing projects (women's empowerment, youth, HIV/AIDS, etc.), however, their only ongoing program is their feeding program which involves handing out a bowl of food to needy students. If a prospective volunteer designates interest in a particular project on their application, such as women's empowerment, they are not told beforehand that there is no such program in place and that they will have to structure it themselves with very little guidance. The website discusses and encourages independence and initiative in creating projects, however, it also mentions the fact that Belizean culture must be considered when creating programs, thus encourages seeking guidance. The problem is that many volunteers may not want to structure their own project and if they do, there is virtually no guidance. Additionally, the site encourages working in cooperation with other organizations on topics that may be of interest, yet has little to provide in the way of who is doing what; it's like Cornerstone functions in a vacuum.

Anything volunteers want to do they can---however, for the most part, they will be doing it on their own---in a different culture, creating programs, curricula, doing presentations, etc. that they may not be well-equipped to do, given cultural considerations, etc. However, no one at C.S. will care whether they're well-equipped or effective---quality and effectiveness just isn't their area of interest. Volunteers, too, can just sit at C.S. doing nothing, and no one will know or care.

There is no accountability at C.S. for the quality of the volunteer's experience. They will take anyone, despite not having the program the volunteer expressed interest in, without making any effort to explain this beforehand. If a volunteer is dissatisfied once they get to C.S., which is often the case, and wants to leave early, C.S. refuses to refund the remainder of the money paid.

At Cornerstone, an organization in place since 1999, the volunteers are constantly reinventing the wheel given the fact that nothing's in place, prior documentation has been lost on the computer and on and on. There's very little work done in cooperation with other agencies, so there may be duplication of efforts, etc.---but, oh well.

Good management is non-existent and you have to question how C.S. continues to survive and receive funding beyond volunteer tuition. There must be a total lack of any type of evaluation methods in place. Having talked with prior volunteers, the same problems occur year after year. Seems that no matter how much feedback, input, criticism, guidance C.S. may get, nothing ever changes.

Aside from the very non-caring attitude toward the volunteer experience, one can't lose sight of how the Belizeans, the supposed beneficiaries of Cornerstone's funding and volunteer labor, have long been forgotten. Volunteers feel ripped off and supposed program recipients probably would too if they had more information. There does, however, seem to be some awareness in the community about C.S. and what they are and are not doing.

7 people found this review helpful.

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