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Mar 16, 2011

Young Women’s Christian Association celebrates 55th Anniversary

Founded in 1956 by Lady Winnie Ward, the local Young Women’s Christian Association is celebrating its fifty-fifth anniversary this month.  It coincides handily with Women’s Month and its programs are geared to providing young women with opportunities to lead purposeful lives. News Five’s Marion Ali has a full report on the Y’s role in meeting the needs of women and girls in today’s society.

Marion Ali, Reporting

These girls, deep in concentration, are not part of a regular high school setting.  They are students enrolled in one of the ten self-help courses that the Young Women’s Christian Association offers as an alternative to academic education.  The course is one of the “Y’s” accomplishments since it opened its doors in 1956.  Fifty five years later, the institution is a homegrown name to every Belizean, with classes ranging from sewing to cosmetology – something that is otherwise not available to young girls who, ordinarily, would slip through the cracks.

Marcie Martinez, Social Worker, Y.W.C.A.

“Even if they didn’t make it in an academic setting, guess what there is something that you can do that can make you self-sustainable where you can actually earn your own income. So the program is actually a program for that; for young women and we try to empower them as best as possible.”

Delarai Sanchez

Delarai Sanchez, Principal, HELP, Y.W.C.A.

“What we do is offer these courses, like for example P.S.E. to young women who would want a second chance of going back to school as well as the ones I’ve mentioned—sewing, hospitality and cosmetology.”

Over the years the “Y” has tailored itself to add specialized courses that are relevant to suit the changing times, including computer classes…and catering.  But, like with anything in life, not every student becomes a success story on the first try.

Today, the girls in the cosmetology class spent the morning giving makeovers to the thirty-one female prisoners at the Hattieville Prison.  Aside from the treat from student to inmate, the occasion also served as a first-hand, one-on-one exchange between those who have faltered and those who have the chance to make a positive difference.

Abigail Avilez, Cosmetology Student, Y.W.C.A.

Abigail Avilez

“This is like a second chance for me doing something else apart from college because I really don’t like college so like yeah.  I’m more planning to be a dermatologist so it won’t deal with just the beauty of the nails but the health.”

Brandy Dougall

Brandy Dougall, student, Y.W.C.A.

“Taking over P.S.E. It gives me a better shot at doing my best and I know I can. So I know I won’t hesitate to do it again because it’s more easier now.”

Marion Ali

“And you see the importance of getting a high school education?”

Brandy Dougall

“Yes, because now in life you really your education to move forward in life. So yeah, I’ll give it another shot.”

Marion Ali

Kenisha Nunez

“I hear you see yourself as a future chef in Belize?”

Kenisha Nunez, catering student, Y.W.C.A.

“Yes, I do.  I really do.”

Sasha Myvette

Sasha Myvette, Inmate, Hattieville Prison

“I went to high school but I dropped out and then I got incarcerated in prison.”

Marion Ali

“Did you go to the Y?”

Sasha Myvette

“Yes ma’am I went but I didn’t take cosmetology course, I took sewing classes and after that I left out and come back incarcerated in prison in which I am doing two year now for that.”

Nioka Smith, Inmate, Hattieville Prison

Nioka Smith

“I been—tek a three months programme dah Y too.”

Marion Ali

“What landed you in jail?”

Nioka Smith

“Shoplifting.  I have regrets because I miss out two years outta my son life and thing. So when I go back out there, I just want make it back up to my son and change my life and thing and live wah different way.”

Marion Ali

“What are you going to do for a living?”

Nioka Smith

“Well I could do hair; I could do hair and things so.”

Marion Ali

“You got that from the Y?”

Nioka Smith

“Yes ma’am.”

All of the inmates have regrets, including Geraldine Cain, who has been through the system a few times before.

Marion Ali

“Prison life rough, is it?”

Geraldine Cain, Inmate, Hattieville Prison

“[Laughs] Prison life rough—rough; that sound too pretty. If I coulda really say it the way I really wah say it—a can’t say it pan the air the way I really want.”

Marion Ali

“But you want discourage women from…”

Geraldine Cain

“Of course.  Dah lie as yoh come out yoh got wah stamp pan yoh. Yoh have wah thing weh say just release and then they look pan yoh like the same person in the past. Since I deh in yah so, this dah the first time I ever take wah twelve step rehabilitation program. And weh I learn from that would be a lifetime thing cause dah noh fi a one day or a one occasion, dah wah lifetime thing. I wish twenty years back I mi learn weh I learn ina the last eighteen months. I wish I mi learn it because I neva mi wah deh yah today di waste my life, yoh understand? The programme mek I learn fi bury my past. My past dah my past, but at the same time, I noh wah shut the door pan my past because dah like if I di drive and I have rearview mirror. Every time I look pan my pass I noh want ih ketch up to me again.”

But, there are also many success stories:

Marcie Martinez

Delarai Sanchez

“We have young women from P.S.E. who go into the high school. At present we have one at St. Catherine’s, we have one at Wesley College doing real well. We have several at Gwen Lizarraga High School and Nazarene. So these young women will have a chance of becoming useful citizens of Belize and those that take the course in hospitality and the like, we get them jobs at the end of two years to go into the working field.”

Marcie Martinez

“They have to want that change. And that’s something that we make them aware of at Y.W.C.A. We make them know that guess what we are here to help but you have to give us something. You have to want that help as well. And we’re there to work with you despite whether—you might fall again but we’re there to help you as you go along.”

It’s all geared toward offering a second chance or an alternative toward molding more positive-minded women out of girls who enter its doors—whether as a beginner or a teen.  Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

Throughout this week there are several activities lined up.  On Thursday new students will be enrolled in the various programs, and on the nineteenth, an all-day open house, showcasing the foods, pastries and services of the Y, will follow.  Down the road on May twenty eighth, the popular Miss Y pageant will wrap up the major events for the year.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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2 Responses for “Young Women’s Christian Association celebrates 55th Anniversary”

  1. Stephen says:

    That is what I like to see in the news, we all done wrong and need to be forgiven and start over. Ladies seek and you all shall find peace and happiness the sky is the limit.

  2. Chami-Ka (reggaetón artist) says:

    Congratulations to the YWCA for doing such a great job helping our young women.

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