YES Craft Center

Youth Enhancement Services (YES) today opened the new home for their craft center, where young women will work toward becoming self-sufficient with their own handiwork.

The students, young women from rural communities such as Ladyville and Lords' Bank, have been taught how to make paper from discarded objects such as banana leaves and fish scale, which they turned into greeting cards, and jewelry from old seeds and wood.

Now, they want to expand their work into a means of making money.

The program turned to the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA)'s Expanding Economic Opportunities through Entrepreneurship and Marketing Development Project (EEOEM), a subsidiary of the Belize Rural Development Project (BRDP) funded by the European Union, for assistance.

It gave them a $22,000 grant to fund the building of the center and according to its coordinator, Regina Campbell, trained the youth in accounting, bookkeeping and other business-related subjects.

YES Director Karen Cain said that while the entire group is involved, a select group of seven has shown greater interest and banded together to form a cooperative to formally undertake the business. The building will serve as a base for the business venture and it is hoped that more interested persons will sign on to help.

One of the members of the cooperative executive is 16 year old Betty Jean O'Brien, who will graduate next month but says she plans to return to manage the project on behalf of the younger students.

According to O'Brien, a unique blend of such things as foxtail leaves and swamp grass results in earrings, bracelets, greeting cards, all natural and colorful. She hopes that their items will be on sale everywhere, even in the Tourist Village in Belize City.

Cain says the point of the program is to teach the young women - and men - that there is value in work and ways and means of making an honest living, leading them to become self-sustainable, independent and able to provide for themselves and their families.

Patrick Jones