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Jul 21, 2011

Restoring Belize in the heart of SSG territory

Restore Belize has organized its first camp for troubled youths in an area that is prone to violence. The CYDP and other community organizations are partnering with Restore Belize. A total of eight teams will be participating in the friendly basketball games. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A friendly game of basketball in the heart of South Side Gangsters (SSG) territory, for most residents of this crime ridden community, is often a dangerous affair.  After all, the proximity of the Wilton Cumberbatch Field, has been the venue of a number of shootings including that of Andrew Vernon in March of this year.  Since then, several other young men have fallen victim to gun violence within its immediate vicinity.  The kill zone is triangulated by the Yarborough Community Policing Office, a long barracks, and the home of slain SSG leader Andre Trapp.  Amongst a group of at-risk youths, is Gilroy Clother. For him shooting hoops is an opportunity to make new friends while keeping occupied during the summer. But it’s more than just basketball.

Gilroy Clother

Gilroy Clother, Youth Camp Participant

“We learn how fi resolve conflicts in a nonviolent way. We learn that animals like owl, shark, turtle, fox and wah bear—we learn that all of them have different personalities. Like for turtle; for conflicts it runs away, it does not stay. We learn that owl dah di best way to resolve a conflict because it may take longer but it makes two enemies become friends at the end of the day.”

Conflict resolution is as crucial to this summer camp as is the basic ability to dribble, pass and shoot.  A total of eight teams make up the attendance.  Facilitating the activities are a number of organizations including the Conscious Youth Development Program.

Emerson Baptist

Emerson Baptist, Sports Coordinator, CYDP

“Most of the eight teams are from the south side, particularly the Yarborough area.  At the end of the competition Team Rookies and Team Respect that is from the Yarborough area participated in the final game of the competition.”

To understand the effectiveness of this event each participant was able to learn which animal he represents.  Despite his commanding size on the court Gilroy describe himself as an owl.

Gilroy Clother

“I call myself an owl because I am a friendly person—I like tell jokes and make friends—I don’t like have enemies especially here in Belize everyday people di dead. So I noh like make enemies.”

Other partner agencies which collaborated to make the camp successful is Restore Belize.  While it has taken a backseat from the spotlight it is still very much active in community rehabilitation.

Greg Nunez, Program Officer, Restore Belize

Greg Nunez

“We actually wanted to have something for them to do and we brought CYDP as well as Community Rehabilitation Department at the table. And our collaboration, as you know Restore Belize is a coordinating agency, we decided that there is need for more than recreation on a daily basis, but more towards some of the character building that is required of the young youths. And we developed a life skill component and it actually entailed having different facilitators from the different organizations actually imparting some of their knowledge as well as some of the necessary life skills for the youths.”

Among the many lessons taught is self esteem.  Their confidence in ball handling has transcended to an ability to keep the peace on and off the court.

Gilroy Clother

“Ih actually feel good because like we ensure that no violence wah deh bout while we di play basketball and we di play wah good game. At the end of the day, I made about fifty friends from the program.”

At the end of the camp participants were awarded with trophies and basic items they will need at the start of the upcoming school year. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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