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Jun 13, 2019

Sewing with the Ladies on Southside

The Belize Police Department, through its Community Policing Unit, is teaching south side residents how to sew through an initiative called the Community Development Sewing Programme. The police partnered up with the Department of Youth Services to teach skills in an effort to impact poverty and crime on the south side of Belize City. Last year we reported on the programme’s first cohort where more than ten persons completed the course. Four of those women went on to sew some of the uniforms for officers of the Belize Police Department. It’s the brainchild of Deputy Commissioner of Police Robert Mariano. He learned to sew since he was twelve-years-old and ever since then he has been sharing his skills to empower others. Today, four more persons graduated from the programme so we stopped by the passing out ceremony to find out more. Here’s the story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

These four women spent the last six months learning how to sew through the Community Development Sewing Programme. Today they graduated and were awarded with certificates because they’ve mastered the course. The community-based initiative was started by Deputy Commissioner of Police Robert Mariano. A skilled tailor himself, Mariano also taught the ladies sewing lessons.


Robert Mariano

Robert Mariano, Deputy Commissioner of Police

“So, these ladies, I can tell you safely, can make clothes on their own. I started this program about a year ago when I was O.C. E.D. and today I have them graduated because I am pleased and satisfied that they have learnt the trade and so I think now that they are well qualified to start their own business.”


At the start of the year, Deputy Commissioner Mariano teamed up with sewing instructor Adeline Enriquez to teach the participants a number of sewing techniques at the Yabra Community Center. After six months of training, they can now make clothing, bedding, accessories and other items.


Adeline Enriquez

Adeline Enriquez, Sewing Instructor

“We have single mothers and some older ladies who choose to take on the trade. Through this medium they learnt how to sew pants, shirts, skirts. We also had another program where we allowed them to sew different dresses and other items like that.”


Two of the participants grew up with mothers who were seamstresses but they didn’t learn those sewing skills. At the start of the Community Development Sewing Programme they had limited knowledge of how to put together a garment, but six months later they now have plans to use their newly acquired skills to start a small business.


Shermick Tasher Valencio

Shermick Tasher Valencio, Graduate, Community Development Sewing Programme

“It is a blessing to me. I feel comfort in doing because I love sewing. When I came here I didn’t know what to do. When I stepped on the peddle I didn’t know what it was for and they told me that the machine was running. I shouted, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” I didn’t realize my foot was on the peddle and the machine was going. I didn’t know what to do. I just said stop and the machine didn’t stop and it was until they told me to move my foot off the peddle. I didn’t know much about sewing but I learnt a lot since I came here. I learnt to do my own skirt. I make bags, hats, pants. I am even learning to sew shirts. This year I told my sons that I will sew their uniforms. I will not be buying another uniform. I will be sewing it for them.”


Kafara Mariano

Kafara Mariano, Graduate, Community Development Sewing Programme

“For my experience here, I think I did good. I did very good. I didn’t know anything about the machine. I didn’t know how to string the machine like that. I just does watch my ma and I does do my own lee thing how I want. But now I could string it up with my eyes closed. But it was a nice experience.”


Andrea Polanco

“What you plan to do with your skills?”


Kafara Mariano

“I plan to teach others more about it because just like how I learn, I want to teach others about it.”


Andrea Polanco

“Are you thinking of turning it into a little business – make garments and sell?”


Kafara Mariano

“Most definitely. Most definitely.”


Deputy Commissioner Mariano says he started this program last year because he received many job requests which were impossible to fill, so he decided to use his tailoring background to empower residents with skills that they can use to start a trade.


Robert Mariano

“Most of the time I didn’t have the job they were asking for. So, I decided to help with the knowledge that I have in teaching sewing at home and do their own employment on their own and make their money that they so choose because they will call their own price.”


Andrea Polanco

“Talk to us about how it factors in to policing here in the city or how it helps with the work that you guys do?”


Robert Mariano

“Well, there is always a discussion on crime and many times people say it is a problem because of no job although I don’t agree with that. So, this is a test because it is important for us to show that we are trying to help create employment for those who say they don’t have employment. So, this will help to see where it will put us or department. At the same time, people tend to respect the police more because they see for themselves that police officers are not like how they are portrayed on the streets. So, it creates a lot of good image for the department itself.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


Deputy Commissioner Robert Mariano says that the next step for the programme is to host a train the trainers’ course.

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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