The United States Embassy says it will be providing over a million U.S. dollars towards programmes geared toward at risk youth. The funding from the CARSI initiative will go to a community policing initiative called the GREAT Program which essentially teaches children from a young age to reject a lifestyle of gangs and violence. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The U.S. Embassy handed over to the police department on Wednesday, a fleet of vehicles, armed with cameras. While most of the vehicles will be deployed to combat crime and record crime scenes, the U.S. Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally also pointed out that there has been continuing efforts by the U.S. State Department to invest in youth related initiatives.

Vinai Thummalapally

Vinai Thummalapally, U.S. Ambassador to Belize

“We have partnered with Yabra Community Center and with Community Policing to support the work that they do. They are receiving the two white buses today. Out of Community policing comes the GREAT Program—Gang Resistance Education And Training—in schools throughout three districts. Police officers are being trained to work with primary school children; ages between seven and fourteen. These young students learn to say no to gangs, violence and drugs. Next year we hope to expand the GREAT program countrywide.”

The GREAT Program is being facilitated by officers such as Corporal Ryan Timmons who received projectors from the CARSI program.

Ryan Timmons

Corporal Ryan Timmons, GREAT Curriculum

“The GREAT program is a program under community policing unit. It is a program that facilitated to kids within the age of eight to seventeen. It has four basic components: the middle school component, the elementary, the family component and the summer program.”

Jose Sanchez

“The handbooks themselves; what do they do with them? How is it used in classes?”

Corporal Ryan Timmons

“Well basically as I mentioned, we have the middle school component and the elementary component. The handbooks go with the middle school component. The middle school is a thirteen weeks curriculum based in-school program that the students learn lesson by lesson. Basically they learn life skills: how to avoid gang membership, avoid giving delinquent behavior in the classroom and so forth.”

Jose Sanchez

“I see the U.S. Embassy have also donated some projectors. How will this be used with the program?”

Corporal Ryan Timmons

“Gone are the days when police officers go into school and write on the chalkboard. It is an upgrade where you have your projector, you have your lesson which is shown on the wall and thereafter you present your lesson for the students. There are other schools. For example there is the Wesley Upper School, St John Vianney Primary School; there is the St. John’s Anglican Primary School.”

Jose Sanchez

“So all of these schools have experienced part of the GREAT training?”

Corporal Ryan Timmons

“Yes, definitely.”

Vinai Thummalapally

“We must keep in mind that youth are the future. With over fifty percent of the population in Belize under the age of twenty, With youth in mind, within in the next month, we will sign over one point one million U.S. dollars for at-risk youth focused programs. Through those grants, local organizations will provide economic development, skills training and citizens’ security community projects throughout Belize. And together as a community of nations, we can accomplish our goals and build a brighter future. As President Obama said recently in Cartajena, Colombia, what we have here is flexible, equal partnership based on mutual recognition of shared and overlapping interests. We don’t have junior or senior partners—just partners.”

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

The CARSI initiative is benefitting other countries in Central America and Mexico. Belize’s share is in the range of sixteen million US dollars.

Channel 5