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Below are some institutions and organizations that are working on ecology and sustainable development projects.

Cornerstone Foundation (tel. 678-9909; www.cornerstonefoundationbelize.org), based in San Ignacio in the Cayo District, is an excellent and effective nonreligious, nongovernmental peace organization with a variety of volunteer and cultural exchange program opportunities. Programs range from AIDS education to literacy campaigns to renewable resource development and use. Overall, costs are pretty low, and reflect the costs of basic food, lodging, and travel in country, with some extra going to support the organization and its work.

Earthwatch Institute (tel. 800/776-0188; www.earthwatch.org) organizes volunteers to go on research trips to help scientists collect data and conduct field experiments in a number of scientific fields and a wide range of settings. Current expeditions to Belize focus on the study and field research on manatees. Fees for food and lodging average around US$2,700 (£1,431) for a 9-day expedition, excluding airfare.

Habitat for Humanity International (tel. 800/422-4828 in the U.S. and Canada, or 227-6818 in Belize; www.habitat.org) is a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian volunteer organization, specializing in building individual housing for needy folks around the world. Habitat has an independent chapter in Belize and sometimes runs organized Global Village programs here. It usually costs between US$1,200 and US$1,600 (£636-£848) per person for a 2-week program, including room, board, and in-country transportation (but not airfare to Belize).

International Zoological Expeditions (tel. 800/548-5843; www.ize2belize.com) has two research and educational facilities in Belize, on South Water Caye and in Blue Creek Village. IZE organizes and administers a variety of educational and vacation trips to these two stations, for both school groups and individuals. A 10-day program usually costs about US$1,250 to US$1,800 (£663-£954).

Maya Research Program at Blue Creek (tel. 817/831-9011 in the U.S.; www.mayaresearchprogram.org) runs volunteer and educational programs at an ongoing Mayan archaeological dig. Two-week sessions allow participants to literally dig in and take part in the excavation of a Mayan ruin. The cost is US$1,450 (£769) for the 2-week program; discounts are available for students and longer stays.

Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (tel. 820-3032; www.monkeybaybelize.org) is a private reserve and environmental education center that specializes in hosting study-abroad student groups. They also run their own in-house educational programs and can arrange a variety of volunteer stays and programs, including homestays with local Belizean families.

Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (tel. 722-2274; www.tidebelize.org) is a small, grassroots environmental and ecotourism organization working on sustainable development and ecological protection issues in the Toledo District. Contact them directly if you are interested in volunteering.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.