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Jun 30, 2017

First 100 Graduates from Police’s Youth Mentorship Program

Two years ago, a spike in crime violence in Mayflower and Sibun area of Belize City saw residents seeking an initiative targeting those most susceptible on the south side. ACP Chester Williams heard the cries and he and his team developed a youth mentorship program with the aim to give the youth something positive to do on the south side. For the past six months, the youths were engaged in a number of activities to help them make right choices. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was at today’s ceremony where the participants received their certificates of completion.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Today one hundred children completed the Police Department’s Youth Mentorship Programme. Launched some six months ago, these southside youth ages ten to eighteen are considered at risk – they live in the heart of crime in the City and the Police hope that mentorship will help to break that cycle that these children are exposed to.

 

Douglas Hyde

Douglas Hyde, National Youth Coordinator, Police Department

“One hundred kids today is going to be graduating and that is an awesome thing because we started with a hundred kids and we are finishing with a hundred kids. The most important thing for us is seeing the transformational changes in these kids; see their behavioral change; the ones who weren’t smiling are now smiling and to see how some of them are interacting and that is really awesome and that is one of the plus for us – seeing the results.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“How would you describe these kids, are they kids you would say are vulnerable to crime and violence on the south side, particularly?”

 

Douglas Hyde

“Most vulnerable…I must tell you these kids live in the center of it. We are talking West Street, George Street, Martin’s Area; these kids come from all the hot spots you can think about, literally they are in the center of it; they are in the belly of the beast if I can say so. So, it is an awesome feeling to see that we can do a diversion program like this that can take them to look at life in a different way. It also challenges the gangs who are recruiting kids at this age to look at it a different way. So, we empower these kids to fight it, to say no, to turn their minds or their hearts away from the whole opportunity to join gangs.”

 

Sixteen-year-old Ashton Vernon is one of the participants of the programme. He says the experience was a positive one.

 

Ashton Vernon

Ashton Vernon, Mentee

“It was a good experience. We went touring. I been to places I never been before. Tomorrow we are going to Caye and I learnt a lot from the program. I learnt how to carry myself, how to talk to others and treat others.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Do you think the things that you have done will change your life somehow – and in what ways?”

 

Ashton Vernon

“Yes, ma’am. In my community, I talk to others and I give them the right advice. I teach them what they teach me so that they can carry it on through everyday life.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, before the mentorship programme, what kind of kid were you in the community. Did you like to hang out – what did you use to do?”

 

Ashton Vernon

“Well, I neva use to heng out ah lot but I used to heng out with mi friends deh and nothing neva deh fi do pahn Saturdays.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, now that you have done this programme, I take it that you are not hanging out as much?”

 

Ashton Vernon

“No, ma’am. I stay inside and I tell my friends – I give them a lee advice and tell them deh nih fi hang out like that and fi stay inside and find something fi do and occupy yu time.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Yuh think yuh friends are going to listen; are they listening to you?”

 

Ashton Vernon

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“What about those who are considering to get involved in gangs or crime in your community, what would you like to say to them?”

 

Ashton Vernon

“Well, I would have to say to them, you have to think twice. You have to think through weh yuh do before you do it and to stay focus.”

 

Every Saturday these youth attended sessions at four sites: YMCA, YWCA, St John’s and the DYS. The activities included working with UB social work students on anger management and other personal development skills. The also visited different spots around Belize, as well as interact with business owners. Working with these children for the past six months were mentors, including Jim Scott.

 

Jim Scott

Jim Scott, Mentor, Youth Mentorship Programme

“For the mentors, it was supervision and some of the sporting activities and all of us will go on the excursions that we do once a month over the last six months.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“In terms of interacting with these kids, were you able to see any changes in them from the start and up to now?”

 

Jim Scott, Mentor

“Yeah, I think just normal interactions especially with kids and adults at first is not comfortable but you can see after a few weeks they became very comfortable and they felt they were in a safe environment and this wasn’t heavily regimented. It was really relaxed and a bit informal, enjoyable based, education with activities and dining and stuff. So, it was a good mix of activities, learning, and socialization.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

 

A final report on the results of this program will be released in the coming weeks. The Police Department is hoping to continue this program on the south side and would like to eventually expand it nationally.

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1 Response for “First 100 Graduates from Police’s Youth Mentorship Program”

  1. Marie says:

    Finally something positive, hopefully we get new leadership to replace the current system.

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