Gian Parham (BA in Theology, 2021) of Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize, teaches adults and youth in two Catholic high schools and also serves as coordinator of the national Theology of the Body (TOB) teachers' training program.
Belizean by birth, Gian says that Belize is a very unique country. As the only English-speaking country in Central America, it is also considered a “melting pot of cultures.” Belize also has a high teen pregnancy rate.
Gian has been married for 24 years and is blessed with two beautiful children. “We are also living the joys of being grandparents,” he says. His favorite pastime, when not with the family or teaching, is fishing in the Caribbean Sea, “the perfect place to unwind and contemplate the mysteries of life and God.”
During the day, Gian teaches English Literature and TOB to seniors at Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School. At night, he teaches adults Computer Science and TOB at Saint Ignatius High School Evening Division.
“For me, teaching is not a job. It is a passion, a vocation, something I am called to do,” Gian says, adding that he is truly blessed to share his God-given gifts with both the teens and adult students he has come to love. “The joy that comes from interacting with the young as they search for what is true, good, and beautiful is deeply moving.”
“Many of the teenagers I work with are living destitute lives, and having made my own journey through the fire, I am humbled that God would use me as a witness and beacon of hope that ‘with him all things are possible.’” The adult students are not that different from the teens, he says, except that they come with a greater sense of the human experience. “At the end of many class sessions, the reaction is always, ‘Why didn’t we hear of this before?’” he says.
As national coordinator of the TOB teachers’ training program, Gian promotes the TOB program in all of Belize’s Catholic Schools. He has conducted workshops with all administrators and principals about the need for the TOB and conducts ongoing training sessions with school faculty and staff. TOB clubs are now being established at Belizean high schools that will be led by trained youth leaders as well. “I am grateful to be, as St. Theresa of Calcutta puts it, ‘but a pencil in the hand of God,’” Gian says.
“I have always believed and am convinced that the TOB, being rooted deeply in Sacred Scripture, is the antidote for the broken world we live in. I really became passionate about the TOB because of my own daughter, who became a teen mom and was abandoned by the father of her child,” he says. This situation is not unusual for many families in Belize, he explains. He, too, was born to a teen mom in a similar situation.
“I decided that there MUST be a better way, and that the cycle of broken relationships must come to an end. TOB has been the chain-breaker, the game-changer for many young girls and boys in my community,” he says.
“Girls are learning that they are valuable and worth waiting for. They have learned they deserve respect and true, authentic, sacrificial love because of their God-given dignity. The young men, on the other hand, are realizing that the image of manhood society is illustrating is a false one. They are learning that true men must grow in virtue in order to die to self and protect the women around them, first and foremost from themselves. Young men are being challenged to grow in responsibility and to love in an authentic way.” He points out that TOB is not just helping to reduce teenage pregnancies in Belize, but it is also helping to lower the abortion rate.
“For years, TOB was reserved for seniors only at Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School, but realizing the transformative effects of the TOB, we decided to launch it at all levels, across the board,” Gian says. “The effects on students are astounding. Last year our administration proudly reported that there were zero cases of toxic relationships, young girls eloping, and teen pregnancy cases were almost nonexistent. There was also a notable decrease in major disciplinary issues. Although there are other factors that contributed to these results, I am convinced that TOB was surely one of them,” Gian says. “Many of the adults told me that the teachings of the TOB had challenged them to change their way of life. There are so many stories I could tell of how the TOB has tremendously changed the lives of both the teens and adults I am privileged to work with.”
Gian decided to pursue a BA in Theology at CDU when he was required by the Ministry of Education to further his studies for professional development. He could have continued his education in Computer Science but decided that he only wanted to study a subject that would benefit his soul. “In my search, I came across CDU and was surprised at the cost of the program, which was significantly lower than most other universities,” he says.
“But what really hooked me, apart from a really solid Catholic curriculum, was the faculty line up,” Gian says. “The old cliché, ‘you come for the price but stay for the service’ was exactly the case for me. The faculty was ‘unapologetically Catholic.’” The fact that many had studied at Franciscan University of Steubenville at some point in their educational journeys was a plus for Gian, who had wanted to attend Franciscan but could not afford the tuition.
“I could not even afford CDU, but God is good, and with Him all things are possible,” Gian says. “There are many I wish to thank for believing in me and for finding it in their hearts to invest in my education at CDU, which has cracked open for me the rich deposit of faith that I can now share with confidence with the longing hearts of my students.”
Gian enjoyed the edifying and deep discussions at CDU through which great friendships flourished. “Being able to share, not just on the weekly topic, but on my Belizean religious culture and traditions, was wonderful,” Gian says. At the start of new classes, he enjoyed reconnecting with those from previous classes. He is especially grateful to the professors for their empathy.
“I am proud to be named among the alumni of CDU! Gaudium de Veritate!” he says.