Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Jacob had a passion for the natural world at a young age – especially snakes. After receiving an A.S. degree in Biological Park Management in 1989, he worked in the Herpetology departments of several zoos. On an exploration trip to Belize, Jacob fell in love with the country and eventually moved there in 1993 to found BFREE, serving as Executive Director ever since. Jacob is Chairman of Belize’s Monkey River Watershed Association, President of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund, and CEO of Crioco Cacao, LLC, a for-profit cacao and chocolate company.
His interest in cacao has grown since discovering wild cacao trees at BFREE and Jacob and his team are exploring the environmental, social, and economic benefits of shade-loving cacao as a tool for conserving and restoring tropical ecosystems. When not in Belize, Jacob enjoys spending time with his three grown children in the USA.
Heather Barrett was born in Louisville, Kentucky and grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received her Master’s degree from the University of Florida. Heather began working with BFREE in 2011 while in Gainesville, Florida with the intention of helping the non-profit through a period of strategic changes. Over ten years later, her role has evolved and she continues to help lead the organization while splitting her time between western NC and Belize. She serves on the Board of Directors for Turtle Survival Alliance where she is Chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Heather is passionate about education and manages all of BFREE’s educational programs. Much of her energy is dedicated to empowering future conservation leaders through work training, outreach and professional development opportunities. She believes wholeheartedly in the power of human potential and strives to connect people to opportunities that will allow them to flourish.
Pedro Witz was born in Puerto Barrios Guatemala in 1987. Shortly after, his parents migrated to Belize where they made it a home. In 2008 Pedro graduated with an associate degree in Business Administration with concentration in Finance from the University of Belize. He began working for the Toledo Cacao Growers Association in 2008 as a Financial Controller and then moved up to Project Coordinator. In 2016 he was working directly with the cruise line in the hospitality sector where he gained much experience in the tourism industry. He then went back home where he did 5 years as a secondary education teacher at the Julian Cho Technical High School. During that period Pedro obtained a Pedagogy Certificate in secondary education from Galen University.
Pedro began working for BFREE in January of 2023 and is happy to be a part of a wonderful and dynamic team who values and protects the precious wildlife of the Belizean magical tropical rainforest. He is the Office & Hospitality Coordinator, and his role is extremely important to facilitate and make the stay of guests and visitors a most memorable one. Pedro takes pride in his new job and seeks to offer his professionalism and output in all areas needed.
BFREE Belize Staff
Hilberto (Ted) Canti
BFREE Fellowship Program