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Feb 18, 2005

80% of kids surveyed feel unloved

Story PictureWe all know there is a lot of crime in Belize, but do we really understand the causes? Or why our young people join gangs, or engage in other criminal activity? Recently UNICEF and the Human Development Department’s Community Rehabilitation Department surveyed children and teens from all over Belize. What they found may, or may not, surprise you.

Patrick Jones, Reporting
The conclusions of a five-month study on the impact of crime and violence on Belizean children and adolescents were revealed today. The findings confirm what most of us already knew: our youngest citizens often act out because they lack basic necessities…including love.

Dr. Michael Rosberg, Project Consultant
?It?s physical needs, not enough food, not enough shoes, not enough school books. It?s emotional needs: stop telling me that I am ugly. And it?s financial needs that people have as well. With the physical needs of course comes the abuse that?s affecting things.?

Survey data collectors, themselves young, travelled all over the country to speak with children in their homes, in schools, in the streets and with selected adults in positions of influence. Andrew Rhaburn and Kimberly Broaster found our children have an overwhelming need for attention from their elders.

Andrew Rhaburn, Youth Data Collector
?They need love; they need attention; they just need someone to be there to help them and guide them and not leave them in the spot. That?s what I believe.?

Kimberly Broaster, Youth Data Collector
?It?s like the story shows, crime and violence, you know. It has a very hard impact on them. Because it affects everything they do. Everything, their every day life has to do with crime and violence based on what they saw happened and stuff like that.?

The summary of the report shows that eighty percent of boys and eighty-three percent of girls feel unloved by their parents; forty-three percent of the girls surveyed said they felt unsafe in the streets. Twenty-five percent of the school aged boys and thirty percent of the girls who responded to the interviewers reported direct exposure to some form of crime or violence.

Rosberg says that even though the study fell way below its targeted sample size, the voices of our young people seemed to be sending one clear message: they need adequate physical, emotional and economic support in order to play meaningful roles in the society. Minister of Human Development Sylvia Flores says while the nineteen recommendations for improvement which include establishing a national coordinated effort to respond to the children?s needs are do-able, it will take more than just governmental action.

Sylvia Flores, Minister of Human Development
?I think all of our social partners need to engage in this whole attitude towards how we are going to give our children the support they need. We can speak about the poverty levels that exist in our families. That is a variable I think that is affecting how children?s attitudes and behaviour are affecting our society. And so all of us have to come together.?

As part of the report launching, the United Nation?s Children?s Fund, which sponsored the study, also premiered a twenty minute video called: ?DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?? in which children told of experiences both good and bad that have left a lasting impact on their lives.

Dr. Michael Rosberg, Project Consultant
?It?s affecting them badly first of all. There?s an awful lot of crime and violence. The statistics that we saw on how many feel unsafe in the streets and so forth suggests that its approaching half of the kids who are frightened out there, frightened in the school yard, frightened in the streets, and in too many cases frightened in the home. That affects them because what they are telling us is that every time they are not receiving the kind of love that they need, the kind of assistance that they need to get their school books, or even shoes for their feet sometimes, or food for the belly, they will turn around and they will look for it on their own. And that?s where we start to see the anti social behaviour. The sad part of it then is that the more you hammer down kids who are doing that, the more anti social things become. It doesn?t resolve the problem. The problem is already there because the needs that they have aren?t being satisfied.?

Patrick Jones
?Do you think that this study, the culmination of your efforts and others, do you think it adequately reflects what?s going through the minds and experiences of our children and adolescents??

Dr. Michael Rosberg
?Yes, I believe so. And I pray and hope that more programmes would start up like this. This one I believe was one of the first we did in Belize and I am very proud of myself and Mr. Rosberg and the rest of the guys. And I just hope better for the Belizean children that everybody might really try to listen and say ok these young people who are normal Belizeans can do this then why can?t we try and do something too and stop the violence.?

Patrick Jones, for News 5.


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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