San Pedro Community focuses on Youth Development

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 16, No. 5            February 1, 2006

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Community interventions for reducing juvenile crimes in San Pedro

On Thursday, January 19th, and Tuesday, January 31st 2006, the Ambergris Caye Safety Committee (ACSC) met with the Community Rehabilitation Department representative Maureen Williams, Mayoress Elsa Paz, Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr, Furman Olivera, Director of the CRO, Steve Spiro ofACSC, Peace Corp Volunteer, Brian Lang and members of the Safety Committee to discuss ways to combat and reduce the juvenile crime in San Pedro. Both meetings were held at the Blue Water Grill and at the meetings, many concerns, considerations and programs for the youth were addressed.

   In their first meeting, the group discussed possible considerations and actions that are in dire need of implementation; first on the agenda was the need for an officer for San Pedro and for that officer to live in San Pedro. Second, the need for a committee in San Pedro such as the District Committee on Community Service which provides guidance to place the youth and/or its family in positive situations like team sports or forming organization such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or a Big Brother/Big Sister Program. Third, the need to offer services through the school system that are pro-active and teach our youths at an early age to become positive contributors in our society. Fourth, the need of more positive social outlets to keep youths from being bored. Next, tests necessary for identifying learning problems such as impaired hearing or vision or attention deficit disorders. And, the need for exploring and implementing successful programs that involve community service which give a sense of being part of the community. This concluded their first meeting and the second was a follow-up to voice other concerns and come up with programs that would help with the progress of our youths.

   In the second meeting, a number of initiatives to work towards the goal of ensuring that children have the best opportunity to develop their potential were discussed. Many of these initiatives focus on the needs of children at risk, combining prevention measures with elements of intervention, education and information. Together, these initiatives would help decrease the number of youths who are caught up in violence and crime on the island. Maureen Williams, Human Development Coordinator gave a report on the programs that the Committee agreed to work on. Programs discussed were; a job training program where youths would have an opportunity to get employed at a business establishment. Second, a sports program that would work as a recreational outlet and give the youths a chance to participate in a positive manner. And, a mentor program where youths could develop positive relationships with other people, possible ways to get involved more and be open with concerns/issues that affect their daily lives. This meeting identified strategies that will show positive results in preventing youth crime only with the help of the community. The values and principles at the heart of these strategies affirm the developmental needs and well being of youths, and make the best interests of the youth their primary consideration. Much emphasis was given to the need of financial assistance from the public, business sectors and other agency’s in order for the project to effectively work out. “We need to get financial donations or equipment and materials donated from the different sectors in our community so that we can work together as one force to fulfill and cater to our future leaders, the youth” commented Mayor Elsa Paz.

   With that said, the committee arrived at a tentative date for a Juvenile Justice Forum scheduled for Tuesday, March 7th at the Blue Water Grill. The forum is geared at getting the youths perceptions, concerns and opinions so that it can be put into a program that caters to their needs. Anyone willing to contribute or become an active member on this committee will also be welcome. Please contact Jules Escalante at 621-3295 for further information or make a donation. Together we can and together we will combat the juvenile crime situation in San Pedro.

Free programs offered to youths

Young children eagerly sign up for free programs.

Last Saturday, January 28th, an open house was held for San Pedro youths, giving them the opportunity to enroll in a new arts program that will be launched on the island. Youths between the ages of 7 to 21 years of age may still choose from a long list of fun subjects in the arts in order to keep themselves proactive with their spare time. Father Jim Blount, Jules Escalante Master of Ceremonies, Evan Vernon, medical students, Peace Corps volunteers, parents and students were all present at the open house.

   Saturday’s Open House at the Medical University of the Americas was open to parents and children willing and ready to participate in the program. When asked by The Sun what the purpose of the program was, Chairman of the Youth Program, Evan Vernon commented, “instead of having our youths hanging around with nothing to do, we decided it was imperative to provide programs that would benefit them and also have their minds active. The program is geared at positive alternatives for the kids to allow them to utilize their time positively and constructively.” Over a dozen local artists have already volunteered to teach their skills in various types of dance, writing, music, drawing, painting, crafts, drama and more.

   The ongoing program is being organized through the San Pedro Chapter of the Governor General’s Office’s Music and Arts in School Program, headed by his Excellency Sir Colville Young, Governor General of Belize and patron of the arts. Class spaces for the program have been provided by the University of the Americas, St. Peter’s School, San Pedro Roman Catholic Church and the San Pedro High School. Youths will have the opportunity to choose from a variety of subjects including; drawing, sketching, wood carving, drama, theatre, play write, digital photography, fire dancing (Moi), journalism, exterior decorating, public speaking, creative writing, drumming, piano and much more. However, the need for more equipment and materials for a successful program is needed. Vernon added “we already have kids signed up, but we are really in need of some donations, and we are asking for help from the public to get more equipment and materials or financial pledges to have the program up and running.”

   The program is a great way to shine light on some hidden talents that the youths possess, but have not been given a chance to nuture their capabilities. The program organizers would like to take the time to thank its sponsors including the Roman Catholic Church, Chamber of Commerce, Ambergris Safety Committee, Community Rehab Office, Town Council, and San Pedro Library. Enrollment for classes will begin on February 4th, and youths are encouraged to take full advantage of this great learning experience as all classes are free of charge. Interested parties can contact Evan Vernon at 605-7328 for further information.
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