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Jul 28, 2006

Youth hostel holds open day for public support

Story PictureThere are parents across the country who are at their wits end when it comes to dealing with problem children. But tonight we take a closer look at one institution that’s fighting to save Belize’s troubled youth.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Today there are forty youths between the ages of twelve and sixteen years old at the Princess Royal Youth Hostel. The institution at mile twenty one on the Western Highway provides a variety of programmes designed to help its young residents keep out of trouble.

These teenaged girls and boys are sent here by the courts for committing a number of minor offences that range from uncontrollable behaviour to burglary.

For the past year and a half, sixteen year old Carmelia Guerra has called the hostel home. She?s counting the days until she can live with her family again.

Carmelia Guerra, 16 years old
?It?s been a real learning experience because before I came here, life was really hard. But here I actually got my feet back on track, and I know I can be anything I want to be when I get out. I am thankful to hostel. People think that hostel is a bad place, but it?s really a life changing place.?

Despite marked success, staff members say the community plays a vital role in rehabilitation.

Kareema Oshon, Teacher, Youth Hostel
?Create an awareness to the public about the youth hostel. What we do here and to sort of sensitize them about in what we do and to see that we really have good children that who probably just came in contact with the law, but they do have good within them and they can make a change.?

?Let?s say within a week, we do start to see some change in them, because we as officers model the behaviour that we do want to see in these children. So we are the role models for them.?

The road back to recovery is challenging and not all the residents succeed as some do return to the institution.

Jacqueline Godwin
?Are you concerned about the increasing number of young people who are being sent to the institution??

Kareema Oshon
?Certainly, I am. But because it is an institution that the courts send them here we do not a have a control over that. We try to work with whatever the courts send here, the children that they send to us and we do our best. We do our best, because that is all we can do.?

Seventeen year old Gary Smith is scheduled to return home in August after being at the youth hostel for five years…but does he believes he is ready to leave the disciplined environment?

Gary Smith, 17 years old
?Yes, I am ready to leave to go home back.?

Jacqueline Godwin
?What has it been like and how has it helped you to change??

Gary Smith
?It helped me a lot. How it change? To go back into society, help other people and teach them the right way and not end up in a place like this. Because when you are in here you will feel very sad, because you want to be with your whole family.?

Kareema Oshon
?But change must come from within that person. We can teach them and we can lead them, but the person has to be willing to grasp whatever we are teaching them.?

Partial funding for the hostel?s programmes are derived from the sale of items made by the residents. While at the hostel, residents learn to tap into their creative abilities and during an open day at the facility today, the boys and girls proudly displayed their arts and crafts.

Kareema Oshon
?It is being marketed. We do a have a gift shop that we put our stuff in, and people come in form time to time and they buy stuff.?

Today’s open day is just one of several activities held as part of the hostel’s summer programme.

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