Audrey Courtenay Building Inaugurated as New Belize Red Cross Headquarters
The Audrey Courtenay Building was officially inaugurated this morning, and will now serve as the new headquarters for the Belize Red Cross. The structure is located on Handyside Street, a few yards away from the former office. The ceremony was brief, but was well attended and regarded by government and non-government officials. Prime Minister John Briceno was present, and expressed appreciation for the recognition of Audrey Courtenay.
Nigel Ebanks, Red Cross President: “Around 2007, about 16 years ago, an initiative began where we started looking at options, the people who were there then started looking at options including especially at that time refurbishing that building. It ultimately turned out that was not feasible. It’s a historical building granted to us by the Thurton family, for which we’re really grateful, but it had reached a point where it was not, uh, restorable. We continued looking at options. The current board of the Red Cross took office just before COVID start at November 2019. From then, we made it a priority to ramp up the fundraising efforts, ramp up the technical effort to study the case and see what was best. We looked at several options including acquiring property within and outside Belize City. We continue to look around the city for suitable property. Ultimately, we ended up just about a house or so down the street from our current building to this facility and we were very happy that we could stay in the same neighborhood and find suitable accommodation for our staff. There is a second phase to the project. That building is a historical landmark essentially and we want to do our best to preserve that heritage. Ultimately, we would hope to restore it as far as possible but we’ve realized because of the extent of the work needed, it’s a more long-term commitment. That building will ultimately be used for more training space and more work space and also we have stocks of supplies that we use for disaster relief including for fire victims, flood victims, hurricane and so on. We rent space now to store those things and hopefully we could do something on that property where we could use it for storage. It’s similar to this. We used to rent space for training. Now we’re saving money by using our own facilities.”
Audrey Courtenay held a long career as a nurse in Belize, and had earned multiple awards and titles for her dedication. Perhaps her greatest award was the Florence Nightingale Award she received in 1997, which is the highest distinction given to nurses. Courtenay passed away eleven years ago, and was the mother of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eamon Courtenay. Among, the dedication of the building in her honor, Mayor Bernard Wagner noted that the improved conditions of the staff at the Belize Red Cross is also a move to be recognized.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “The Belize Red Cross Society has been serving Belize very well and whenever we think about hurricanes the first that comes to mind is the Belize Red Cross Society.They have such a great reputation that even the international associations and the IFIs would rather work through the Belize Red Cross society, which speaks well for the work that they have done. And today we’re inaugurating their new headquarters and I am so pleased that they have the training center named after the late Audrey Courtenay because for many people when you think about Red Cross you think about Audrey Courtenay. She served them for many, many years, and I was just told by her daughter-in-law that even after she retired she was still traveling around the country checking the different headquarters offices that they had around the country. So I’m very excited, I’m very happy that also that everybody joined together with the Belize Red Cross Society to make this a reality.”
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development: “It’s almost like I had to be here. Miss Lily Bowman, the Director General, is a former classmate of mine so we’re very close. And of course we know Miss Karen and I do know Miss Jackie Marshaleck the First Vice President and of course Mr. Nigel Ebanks the president. So the Red Cross has managed to attract very good leadership throughout the years. But I want to pause at this time to particularly remember Ms. Audrey Courtenay. She was a champion of the Red Cross and served for many, many years as director general. So, and the fact that the training room is being named for her is a wonderful thing. So I just want to thank Ms. Lily, Ms. Karen, everybody who has been involved, Mr. Nigel, Ms. Jackie, but particularly remembering Audrey Courtenay today who did so much for the Red Cross and for volunteerism for our vulnerable people in Belize. And as you know, the Ministry of Human Development works closely with the Red Cross not only in times of disaster but wherever there’s human need.”
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “It’s always good when you see organizations such as the Red Cross are able to enhance services they provide because they do provide huge assistance to the community not only in disasters but in day-to-day meeting the needs of the homeless, meeting the needs of people who require wheelchairs, people who need food packages, who need food assistance and so coming here today to partner and to celebrate with the Red Cross on this new state-of-the-art building, I feel so good about it. They deserve it. It’s an organization that has a long outstanding history in Belize of service, and so I’m glad to have been able to participate today.”
Also in attendance at the event were Area Representative for Fort George, Henry Charles Usher; Minister of Human Development, Dolores Balderamos Garcia and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eamon Courtenay.