In this series of Belizean Women in Lead, we sit down with Kim Simplis-Barrow. Embodying the modern Belizean woman, Kim has worn many hats: advocate, philanthropist, and hotelier. Former First Lady to Belize and Former Special Envoy for Women and Children, she is also the curator behind The Ellysian Boutique Hotel. Here, she tells us more about her mission to improve the welfare of women in Belize, her vision behind The Ellysian, and more.
Our Interview with Kim Simplis-Barrow
From working as the Special Envoy for Women and Children to founding the non-profit Lifeline Foundation. Tell us – what drives you every day?
I want to be remembered as someone who made an impact on the welfare of Belizean women and children.
Who are your role models?
I must admit that my mom has been my role model because of her hard work and dedication to seeing us get our education and never giving up on us. I’ve had others, though, which have been, locally, Nurse Cleopatra White and outstanding educator Sister Caritas; and, internationally, Hilary Clinton and Presidents Michelle Bachelet and Dilma Rousseff.
What are the major challenges facing women in Belize today? And how do you think we can work together to overcome them?
Without a doubt, two things come to mind: The lack of women in leadership roles and the existence of an archaic patriarchal society.
Basically, women aren’t included in most decision-making levels of national, business, or political policymaking. And as result, this lack of presence stagnates the process of issues as it pertains to equal pay, human rights, and workplace discrimination. The reality is, if women are at the helm of leadership positions it will directly benefit their household, community, and country and that in itself will help us advance as a country.
Looking at the latter, we still live in a society where women are viewed as “less than men”. We are un-subconsciously groomed to think we are less qualified and less competent than men. And this then translates into that strong intelligent women are disruptive to the social order of life.
And how do you think we can work together to overcome them?
Truth be told, we have to support each other but more importantly, we have to focus on what we want to achieve. We must continuously work on our skills. We must educate ourselves and always be prepared and present. We must speak up and participate.
One must come to terms with the fact that people will dislike you for no reason- and it’s ok. Know who you are and you stay true to yourself. And lastly, this one I’m guilty of – I’m always afraid of being perceived as ‘bragging’ never comfortable speaking of my accomplishments. We women never want to come off as threatening but we need let go of insecurities and not be afraid to stand out.
What advice would you share with women who are at the start of their careers that aspire to reach a senior position or be successful?
Again, always stay through to yourself. Set goals and revise them regularly. Have clear objectives and don’t be afraid to break stereotypes.
Tell us more about The Ellysian? What inspired you to curate your own hotel, and what is your vision for the resort?
I wanted to create a destination that evokes peace, luxury and life-altering experiences.
On the very edge of Belize’s Placencia Peninsula, in the heart of Placencia village, rests our luxury beachfront paradise known as The Ellysian Boutique Hotel.
Ellysian: Greek word meaning beautiful or creative; divinely inspired, peaceful and perfect. It draws its name from the Elysian Fields, the heaven on earth of ancient myth.
The hotel has picturesque, beachfront, and ocean views, and its back patios reach out to Placencia Village, this unique hotel presents the charm of Belize and the splendor of a modern stay. Each of our chic 13 rooms, offers mesmerizing calmness and evokes peace, luxury, life-altering experiences, and heavenly dreams. Each of Ellysian’s rooms is unique and decorated as a sensory experience for all guests. A symbiotic relationship between art, form, and function thrives behind every door. Some are vibrant and eclectic, others rely on a few simple elements to warm your heart and welcome you.
What inspired you to curate your own hotel, and what is your vision for the resort?
I’ve always had a dream to own a hotel in Belize. During my formative years, I worked in varying departments within hotels, as well as at the BTIA to help safeguard the stakeholders’ interest and push policies in the industry and this involvement started a tourism passion in me.
I was lucky that before working in the industry I had pursued a bachelor’s degree in hospitality. And after some years working in the tourism field, I later went on to pursue two master’s degrees, one in Tourism & Hospitality Management and the other in International Business from Florida International University.
After years of dreaming and having every confidence in the tourism industry in Belize and the actual product that we have to offer, I knew then that I wanted a zen, peaceful, clean experience for guests. I wanted something personal. Something that I could have placed my personal touch on, whether it was naming rooms to evoke a feeling or having my then 10-year-old daughter at that time, create the masterpieces that adorn the walls. I wanted to be a hotelier and share our beautiful country with discerning travelers.
Tell us how you manage to achieve a work/life balance. What do you do for fun/ to relax?
I take time for myself; doing daily exercise routines and trying to eat well. I am a planner, so my week is planned out a week or two in advance so that I can stay organized. Also, I take time for myself even if that means time away from family so that I can re-set and recharge.
What do you do for fun/to relax?
I enjoy traveling both internationally and domestically and enjoy the thrill of unknown destinations, their people, food, and cultures. I appreciate the architecture and details.
Given the unprecedented pandemic times, we are in, I find myself spending more time at The Ellysian, sailing the seas of Belize, and enjoying more hole-in-the-wall eateries. Although we have to travel with limitations, I try to responsibly make the most of each destination I discover.
More About Kim Simplis-Barrow
Whilst Kim Simplis Barrow is a name many know as the former first lady of Belize, she is foremost known as an advocate for women in Belize. Her views on gender, equality, and justice were largely shaped by her childhood experiences. Her hard-working parents and her strong family network gave her unconditional love and support that imbued her with empathy and respect for others, an awareness of all people’s dignity, and a sense of community. Kim also founded the Lifeline Foundation, aside from being the Former Special Envoy for Women and Children and establishing ‘SHE for Belize.’ The Lifeline Foundation has raised thousands of dollars to aid disenfranchised children.
In addition, she aided in the establishment of The Inspiration Centre, Belize’s national referral center for children with disabilities, and was instrumental in creating the Pediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. All while battling breast cancer. Finally, Kim’s “SHE for BELIZE” foundation connected 20,000 women in her empowerment campaign. This campaign advocated women’s rights and supported women in business through financial and mentoring support. Today, she is also dedicated to addressing Caribbean priorities including the reduction of teenage pregnancy, cervical cancer, HIV (including mother-to-child transmission), and violence against women and children, including human trafficking.
More about The Ellysian
The chic, beachfront 13-room hotel celebrates the feminine spirit on the shores of Placencia Village. Visitors can enjoy the splendor of a modern stay with easy access to the local village life.
This sanctuary reflects the strength and confidence of women and their history to stand courageously, empathetically and lovingly.
Couples and small families become wanderers as they explore ancient Maya cities, crawl through the Maya underworlds, harvest cocoa and make chocolate with indigenous farmers, learn to beat a drum with the Garinagu, and indulge in all the local flare and flavors of Belize.
About The Belizean Women in Lead Series
Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle’s ‘Belizean Women in Lead Series’ celebrates International Women’s Day 2021. The day, marked annually on March 8th, is witnessed worldwide and celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. At CC+L, we are going a step further and dedicating the entire month of March to the women of Belize. The series features some of the industry’s most innovative and successful female leaders in the Belizean hospitality and travel industry. We chat to them about their career path, including their passions and challenges faced. In addition, we share their best tips, tricks, and advice with other women in the industry.
We ask you to join us in celebrating the women around us this month and look forward to sharing this series with you. Finally, we encourage you to share any inspirational stories of those women making a change in our community with us.