Ian and Ella Anderson are the founders and directors of the BNYCF and the BCF (Belize Chess Foundation). Caves Branch plays an important role as the primary financial sponsor as well as providing tours and venues for chess camps and activities, and manpower and resources for large events such as the National Olympiad.
What is Belize National Youth Chess Foundation?
Founded in 2007, the BNYCF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting chess, as an educational tool, among the disenfranchised youth of Belize. The program uses chess as an educational and motivational tool for the purpose of stimulating players’ interest in an intellectual activity that will enhance their academic and social skills, while making learning fun and providing an environment that will keep kids off the streets.
HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE IN THE PROGRAM?
Since the BNYCF was founded in 2007, chess became the fastest growing sport in Belize. There are now more than 50 active chess clubs and over 1,000 players around the country. We bring the program to the most remote parts of the country and it functions all year round. As of 2012, the program has funded and conducted:
53 chess camps:1384 participants
49 tournaments: 2190 participants
5 scholarships to High Schools
All the events are free of charge for the participants. There is no government sponsorship, so the BNYCF depends completely on donations.
Through the chess instruction program, children will embrace the importance of studying and learning new strategies, concentration, discipline, perseverance, focusing on the final goal, accepting consequences for making mistakes and learning from them in a positive environment, instead of being discouraged in life and turning to the streets. The chess instruction program will help children develop:
- critical thinking
- logical thinking
- ability to analyze actions and consequences
- pattern recognition
- problem solving skills
- planning ahead
- ability to setup short and long term goals
- intellectual maturity
Through chess tournaments, the program teaches children sportsmanship skills, team spirit, empathetic attitudes towards other players, anger and behavior management, thinking and making decisions under pressure. Since chess tournaments involve clocks to limit the time each player can use, it teaches them to think and make accurate decisions under time pressure – a skill they will need for taking school tests and exams.
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT IN BELIZE?
There are very few after-school programs in Belize, especially ones that make children think, wonder, and develop curiosity. There is a large population of single parent households with many children in the family who are not getting adequate attention from adults, and who have nothing to occupy themselves with after the school day is over. Where does it lead them? To the same place as everywhere else in the world: children who are not engaged in any meaningful activities have a tendency to find themselves on the streets and get themselves into trouble, which can eventually lead to criminal behavior. The chess program offers the environment where they will find attention, where they can grow their self-esteem, learn to be excited about learning and feel proud of their own accomplishments.
The desire of the BNYCF is to create a program which will entice and encourage the youth of Belize to participate in a program that will not only be fun, but will be challenging as well, and by active participation, the child has the opportunity to do something that they would feel good about. Self-esteem rises with accomplishment. As the result of proper teaching, chess will be the upward spiral of accomplishment leading to confidence, leading to optimism, leading to more accomplishments, and thus greater confidence and even more optimism. Through the special teaching techniques, it is not only chess that will be taught, but the children will learn life skills that will last them well into adulthood.
For more information about the program, go to www.BelizeChess.org.