| Joanne O’Brien presented her ideas and hopes for the community in helping stop abuse.|
A lot has been said about spousal and child abuse. Everyone has at one time or another seen programs or heard talks on how it is wrong, and should not be happening in these modern and civilized times. However, the sad fact is that it takes place, and mostly behind closed doors. Abuse does not discriminate against color, race, income or geography. It occurs in the places least expected, as well as where most expected. In our homes, in our schools, on the streets, abuse happens. And it should not.
Joanne O’Brien was a social worker for 14 years in Canada. Later she founded the non-profit Direct Abundance. She has worked with the homeless, abused, and abandoned, and now she is bringing her experience to Belize. In 2007, she came to Belize bringing donations of school supplies to four different schools. She networked and through her associations on Ambergris Caye, she found out about a highly publicized domestic violence incident. She knew then that there was a serious need for someone with her kind of knowledge and expertise to bring much needed help. With her work in Canada done, she knew she could try to make a difference in Belize. For the past few months, she has done just that.
On January 22nd – 24th, O’Brien held a workshop sponsored by The Word at Work and BNE (Belize Natural Energy) Trust. The Ministry of Human Development, The Police’s Domestic Violence Unit, the Health Department and many other organizations and individuals joined at Banana Bank Lodge to participate in identifying where the gaps and challenges lie in dealing with Domestic and Child Abuse. Of utmost importance was the need of a National Directory. This directory will list the numbers and contact information for anything from Doctors, lawyers, shelters, counselors – any of the services available in the country.
In an interview with The San Pedro Sun, O’Brien stated that a committee is being formed, and funds are being solicited by way of international and national grants, as well as via marketing, and word of mouth. It is the present committee’s hope that San Pedro can be the first to provide a haven for women, one that can be a model for the rest of the country.
On Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010, Joanne O’Brien hosted a meeting at the Lions Den wherein the subject of Abuse was broached. The purpose of the meeting was to create an awareness of Domestic Violence, that it is NOT a socio-economic problem, and the campaign currently in progress is to build a safe house for women and children. This home will be a model for the rest of the country. As a result of the meeting, there was talk of a possible land donation and a space to facilitate groups of victims. A request also came in for workshops to be taught at the San Pedro Roman Catholic School for the teachers.
As work progresses, The San Pedro Sun will keep you informed as to how the work is coming along.