VOICE is an organization that advocates for the rights of older persons in our society. The organization was officially launched on October 1st 2007 which is the International Day of Older Persons. All this became possible through a workshop held back in 2006 where senior citizens expressed that an organization needs to be formed for the older persons within the country of Belize.†† Mr. Paul McCord is in charge of the branch for the City of Belmopan and is currently being assisted by Shaz who is a peace corp. volunteer. Both Shaz and McCord appeared on Rise and Shine this morning and spoke firstly about the most pressing challenges that the elderly of the country are faced with.†

Paul McCord - VOICE Belmopan
I think the greatest need is financial. There are a number of people and that when we talk about financial that is going to include health services, you will find that a person out in some of the various areas they live only a hundred dollars a month as an example.

Shaz Davison†- Peace Corp. Volunteer
My assessment is that a lot of people don't get a lot of their medicines, they go into the Hospital, will need their hypertension or diabetic medicine it's not always readily available to them and so I think that's an issue that we're looking at and trying to log that information accordingly so that we can have anecdotal proof that it do exist.

Funding for the group was first obtained from the British High Commission to assist with the development process and to raise the capacity of the participants as the eventual owners of the organization. McCord says that they have been lobbying to have the transport system imported for senior citizens.

Paul McCord - VOICE Belmopan
We have been trying for a number of years now to get through the Transport Board to make sure that Senior Citizens are given a discount in traveling on the bus, to make sure that they have proper accommodation, we did that when the previous Minister of Transport was there we didn't make very much headway. I have spoken to a number of bus owners who are ready to assist in that form, except that we had so many changes in bus owners that didn't go very far either, but today with the new Minister in charge of Transport there seems to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel where he is going to make it a condition on the rules of giving bus owners, that they will have to accommodate older people and also give the older people a discount and make it a mandatory part of their concession for getting a run.

†VOICE has branches and representative all across the country and another project they have been working on is the Universal Pension Plan.†

Shaz Davison - Peace Corp. Volunteer
When I first got here, in every district we had public meetings to give more information on what that's about. There are three differently options based on a person's age, but once you've reached that age whether in be 60,65 or 70 everybody regardless of their income would be receiving that. And the National Council on Aging has done a feasibility study that demonstrated that it works in other countries so let's bring it here. And so that is definitely something that's out there, we want to make sure to continue to push that whether it's in two years, five years, ten years we want to plant the seeds right now so that we can begin, cuz we're pioneers of this movement anybody that's part of this organization is pioneers of a movement that's going to stand for many many years.

Louis Wade - Plus TV
Where is that Universal Pension Plan right now??

Paul McCord - VOICE Belmopan
We went around to each district and we were suppose to come up with signatures, as many signatures as possible and when we get a certain amount of signatures we going to take it to the Prime Minster and put it in his lap you know.

† also works closely with HelpAge Belmopan and one of the recent programs that they have implemented for older persons is a weekly clinic for older persons at the HelpAge Centre here in the City of Belmopan.† The clinic is held on Monday of every week.

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