Building Houses in Belize FinalAt Advanced AV, we make a point to celebrate the exemplary work of our team members in the office, but we also pay attention to the extraordinary things they do outside of it. Serving the community—not just our local community but also our neighbors around the globe—is something Sales Engineer Darren Brown knows all about.

Last summer, Darren spent a week of his summer volunteering his time in the Cayo region of Belize, a place known for its tropical landscape, cultural diversity, ecological tourism, and Mayan temples. While on the mission trip with a group from the Audubon, PA-based Victory Church, though, Darren found much of the country to be “plagued by poverty and a lack of education.”

In the region, only 55 percent of children go to what’s known as upper school—the equivalent of high school in the states—and even fewer actually graduate. Often, girls get pregnant at a young age, and Darren reported a cultural norm that “views children as a burden,” leaving many abandoned or neglected. The goal of Darren’s mission trip with Victory Church was to partner with North Carolina-based Oasis Ministries to build safe, sturdy homes for local villagers while providing education and guidance.

Oasis Ministries was founded by Pastor Ron and Linda Braaten, who, on top of leading the Belize initiatives, have taken in orphans and worked to reunite them with their biological parents at the mission location.

“At any given time, there will be six to ten children and young adults living and working at the mission,” Darren said.  “Some of them have learned trades like cooking, construction, and carpentry through the mission to later find work or start their own business.”

While in Belize, Darren, and his team members built the foundation of a new home for a local family (See photo below). They also built bathrooms, painted walls, and laid concrete for a preschool. In the mornings, they led a Vacation Bible School for over 100 children bussed in from surrounding villages.
When they weren’t working, the leaders of Oasis Ministries followed through with their “work hard, play hard” motto by supporting outings like cave tubing, paddle boarding on the coast, and touring Mayan ruins near Guatemala. Darren was even able to take a guided hike through the jungle, eating termites and exploring a fruit bat-filled cave along the way.

The 2015 trip was Victory Church’s fifth trip in the past four years. In their mission with Oasis Ministries, the Braatens have built a cumulative 90 homes in the region, and they’ve also started schools and churches.

“Plans for another trip this summer are in the works, and I’m proud to say that my oldest son, Elijah (13) will be joining us,” Darren said. “We are expecting it to be another powerful opportunity to help others and be forever changed by the experience.”

To view a video Darren produced with footage from the 2015 Belize trip, click here. To learn more about Oasis Ministries or their work in Belize, click here. To make a tax-deductible donation to the upcoming 2016 excursion, click here—and be sure to select Darren as the donation recipient.

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Darren (pictured at left)

Photo Credit: StockSnap.io