|Attending the Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday were many involved in acquiring a position for a full time Community Relations Officer(CRO) in San Pedro. It was announced that Evan Vernon has been hired to fill the position. Pictured are (l-r): France Westby, CRO, Toledo; Sharon Fraser, Magistrate, Belize City; Evan Vernon, San Pedro CRO; Fermin Olivera, Director, Community Rehab Department, Ministry of Human Development; Brian Lang, Peace Corp Volunteer; Steve Spiro, Chairman Ambergris Caye Safety Committee. |
An entourage from Belize joyfully announced that longtime San Pedro volunteer Evan Vernon has been hired as the first Community Relations Officer (CRO) for San Pedro. “Youth in San Pedro need an advocate – there are so many reasons San Pedro needs a CRO,” stressed Vernon who has been taking weeks of training after accepting the position on June 1st. Vernon has been a long-time community volunteer working especially with local youth. He helped to organize the Governor General’s Music School program and has served on the Ambergris Caye Safety Committee apart from being a trained Special Constable.
“We’ve been working on this for a year,” said Chairman of the Ambergris Caye Safety Committee Steve Spiro. Spiro also gave special thanks to Mayor Elsa Paz who, along with the Town Council, have agreed to pay for the position for one year. Subsequent years will hopefully be paid for by the Government of Belize. Vernon’s primary duties will be to work with San Pedro youth and to guide them to resources that they may need. He is taking training in counseling and also learning about the laws that relate to his position. A major portion of his job will be to work with troubled youth, those who are getting into trouble and those with little or no parental supervision. “I believe this community has a lot of resources that need to be channeled to where it will do the most good,” said Vernon. He added that since 38 to 45 percent of the island’s population is under 18, that this position is much needed in order “to fill a vacuum” of community needs. Vernon stressed that prevention is important to keep kids out of trouble. He said he will be working closely with the schools others to help offer programs for children outside of school.
Joining Vernon during the announcement at the Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce (ACCC) were several professionals from Belize. Fermin Olivera, Director of the Community Rehabilitation Department in the Ministry of Human Development said that in addition to working with youth, Vernon will work with families. “We look at families and extended families to have children live in the best environment possible.” Olivera said that CROs work closely with schools to help identify children who are in difficult family situations. They work with teachers, community members and Justices of the Peace. Olivera also said that San Pedro has a problem with many migrant workers who leave their children unsupervised.
Belize City Magistrate Sharon Fraser stressed that in this capacity, Vernon will try to help children who need an alternative to jail after committing crimes, especially first offenders. Examples will include organizing community service for youth who have gotten into trouble. “Instead of throwing them in jail, they can do something useful, like clean the beaches or painting homes of the needy,” said Fraser. Vernon’s job will be to organize supervision of these activities.
France Westby has been a CRO in Toledo for three years. He will mentor Vernon in his new position. “He has a lot of work ahead of him,” he commented.
Vernon will be using a temporary office in the San Pedro Town Hall. He can be reached by calling 605-7328.