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The US Embassy Belize announced that Rowan Garel has been chosen for the Youth in Focus Spotlight for the month of May! Rowan has organized various fundraisers over the years to help raise awareness and funds for blind individuals and the organization Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI) which aims to provide individuals blind and visually impaired with necessary skills and help to live their lives independently.

Rowan was born blind and although he went to an able-bodied school all his life, he has attended BCVI summer camp and after a certain age went on to teach computer skills to younger children at the same camp. Unfortunately, major donors decided to rescind support in 2011 and upon finding out Rowan decided to begin fundraising in order to raise money for the organization. These efforts included climbing Victoria Peak, walking from the western border of Belize to Belize City, diving into the Blue Hole and writing a Children’s Book.

When Rowan climbed Victoria Peak (3,670ft) in 2011 he was able to document the process to raise awareness and $35,000 for the summer camp. The next year, in 2012, Rowan wanted to have a more inclusive fundraiser and decided to walk from the western border of Belize to Belize City. This fundraiser enabled people to walk with them, donate money along the way or make a pledge. Some even gave gifts such as Oreos which Rowan described as a very touching experience. With this fundraiser he was able to raise $100,000 for equipment such as computers and canes among other things for BCVI.

The last physically challenging fundraiser Rowan completed was diving into the Blue Hole which is 124m deep. While physically it was the least demanding for Rowan, it was mentally more difficult as it was riskier and required him to get certified. Rowan also had a children’s book written detailing his fundraisers as a way to continue raising funds for BCVI.

Rowan has also received various awards and recognition including the title of Caribbean Adventure Ambassador in 2017, and the Chou Ta-kuan Cultural and Educational Foundation’s 2017 Global Fervent Love of Lives Medal.

Rowan is currently making plans to become involved with BCVI once more and hopes to become a rehabilitation instructor in the future. He will also continue advocating for blind and visually impaired individuals, pushing the narrative of how blindness does not define a person but that they too can accomplish any goal and find the resources to succeed much like anyone else.

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Dorian Nuñez

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