Our founder, Rik Sowell, first went to Belize in 1987 on a mission trip with his church to assist with the construction of a classroom building for a Christian primary school. Very little was accomplished and the school was left with a partially constructed two-room facility. However, relationships were established that eventually led to the work of The Iguana Squad today.
During a personal visit to Belize in 2000, Rik discovered a great need for educational facilities. Many children were on waiting lists to attend schools but facilities were either inadequate or did not exist. He kept thinking that someone needs to step up and do something about this situation. At that moment, he realized, as an architect, he had the knowledge and ability to do something himself. “It was a transforming moment in my life, a calling if you will. I knew I had to answer.”
Rik returned to the states with a burden to construct classroom space for existing private school programs with a history of success. In 2001, he began the planning process to return to Belize with a construction team to assist one school in the village of Benque Viejo located on the western border. That was just the beginning. In 2006, medical teams were added to the effort. Apart from the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, The Iguana Squad has returned to Belize every year since 2002, assisting schools in several areas of the country, constructing classrooms and other support facilities. The Iguana Squad has also set up clinics in villages around the country complete with physicians, dentists, surgeons, nurses, therapists and pharmacists. One of our team members, a physician who participated in several medical missions, felt like he wanted to use his surgical skills “in-country”. This required a series of meetings with the Ministry of Health to establish procedures using their OR and follow-up staff in the capital city at the Belmopan Public Hospital. To date, more than sixty patients have received the best orthopedic surgeries available. A mission-hearted medical equipment supplier has been an integral part of this effort from the beginning, providing the necessary surgical equipment, setting it up and monitoring every surgery.
First mission trip to Belize in 1987. Rik is second from the left and his new friend Manuel Reyes is second from the right. Rik and Manuel are still fast friends to this day.