Belize ambassador tells how a young vendor became a diplomat

05/08/2021 02:20 PM
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Belize Ambassador to Taiwan Candice Pitts. CNA photo May 6, 2021
Belize Ambassador to Taiwan Candice Pitts. CNA photo May 6, 2021

Taipei, May 8 (CNA) Candice Pitts, once a little girl who helped her mother sell johnny cakes on the street, and now Belize's ambassador to Taiwan, recently told CNA that working hard and being prepared to seize opportunities transformed her life.

Growing up in the underdeveloped community of Port Loyola, Pitts dreamed of becoming a lawyer, like many Belizean do, but ended up an educator, a city councilor, and now, a diplomat.

"Fortunately, I am one of those people who have been exposed to opportunities and so I have been able to transcend the life (I had) in Port Loyola," she told CNA during a recent interview at her office.

But fortune does not just come naturally and opportunities are for those who are prepared.

Since she was a child, Pitts would always read books when she was not helping her mother do chores or sell food. That good habit has helped her obtain scholarships and enabled her to study in the best schools in Belize.

Pitts recalled her love for reading was instilled into her at a memorable event during her childhood.

"I was maybe 5 years old. My uncle came to visit us around Christmas. I remembered he brought my female cousins dolls, and he brought me three collections of books," she said.

As young Pitts was about to cry, seeing her cousins combing their dolls, her uncle told her: "You will learn how very important books will be to your life."

Indeed, she did.

After graduating from junior college, she went to the United States to continue her studies through scholarship programs. After attaining a doctoral degree, she taught for a couple of years in the U.S. before returning to Belize, deliberately, to teach at a local university.

In her hometown, she observed that women remained underrepresented in government and decided to enter local politics to initiate change. She won a seat in the Belize City Council in an election in 2018.

A year later, Pitts ran in her country's House of Representatives election, hoping to bring transformations to a national scale. She lost this time, but the party she belonged to, the People's United Party, won.

Impressed by her courage to challenge the status quo in politics, Prime Minister Johnny Briceño appointed her to be the country's ambassador to Taiwan.

"When I was informed that I would become the ambassador to Taiwan, it was a big deal, you know, because you are the ambassador to a significant ally of your country," said Pitts.

She described Belize and Taiwan as "trusted allies," citing a memorandum of understanding signed in March that seeks to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the areas of public health, agriculture, education, investment and trade, as well as women's empowerment.

The neophyte diplomat said she has noticed the increase of Belizeans in Taiwan because of educational opportunities, and she will continue to enhance people-to-people exchanges between the two countries through creative ways amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, she will focus on exposing Belize to the Taiwanese people through cuisine diplomacy and activities relating to Belize's important festivals.

In terms of trade and investment, Pitts said her office will arrange online trade and investment conferences to engage business people from both countries, and expressed hope that the Belize-Taiwan economic cooperation agreement (ECA), signed in September last year, will take effect soon.

During the interview, Pitts congratulated Taiwan for doing a "remarkable job" in containing the coronavirus, and expressed her support for Taiwan's participation in activities of the World Health Organization.

Belize is one of Taiwan's nine diplomatic allies in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Pitts arrived in Taiwan in early March and presented her credentials to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on April 20.

Asked about the instructions that Briceño gave her prior to her departure from Belize, she said in jest "no ganbei."

"Ganbei" is a Mandarin term which means to empty the glass of liquor during banquets and social events.

"I am really (here) to foster the relationship between Belize and Taiwan, and to avail myself to the president, to the government of Taiwan, to the people of Taiwan, be at their disposal to act whatever I can to ensure that Belize and Taiwan maintain its long-standing relationship," she said.

(By Chung Yu-chen and Emerson Lim)

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