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Jan 4, 2022

One Year Later, Belize City Community Hubs are Still Going Strong

Across Belize City, a number of centers have been established to assist youths in troublesome communities with gainful employment.  Six locations, including Yabra, St. Martin’s, and Majestic Alley, were identified in partnership with the U.S Embassy, and investments were made in each neighborhood to create employment opportunities for reformed gang members.  This afternoon, News Five’s Isani Cayetano visited several of these locations and followed up with the participants on the progress of the initiative one year later.  Here’s his story.

 

Finding purpose, notwithstanding the tragedy that has befallen them in what would otherwise be described as crime-ridden neighborhoods in Belize City, is a mission that many of these young men embarked upon two years ago.  Despite the raging pandemic and the vagaries of gang warfare, there’s a lot to be done at St. Martin’s One Stop Auto Care.

 

Deborah Sewell

Deborah Sewell, Managing Director, Love Foundation

“We know that these guys have a past and it was difficult to do job training and send them out to find a job because their lives would be at risk.  But creating opportunities within the community, using the skills from within the community, afforded them the opportunity to actually rise up within their community and contribute back to their community.  So this initiative was solely to create an environment where we call them hubs because this is the place where people come for resources, where people come to access any kind of services.”

 

The employees at Saint Martin’s One Stop Auto Care on Partridge Street Extension are occupied with repairing vehicles.  They’ve held firm to their respective jobs, notwithstanding a tragic incident on December 15th, 2020 that could have very easily sidelined their attempts at turning their lives around.

 

Albert Clother

Albert Clother, Manager, St. Martin’s One Stop Auto Care

“Over the past twelve months we’ve had some bumps and bruises, had a rocky start but perseverance and we stay een deh and wi try put wih all into it noh.  So I guess from then ‘til now ih neva really easy but wi di heng een deh.”

 

These guys are busy fixing cars, motorbikes and even jet skis, but their work at the hub is more than meets the eye.  They are also responsible for facilitating academic assistance for students who need help after school.

 

Deborah Sewell

“So you might see a mechanic shop but that mechanic shop is also offering scholarships because they’re connected to us at the Love Foundation so we are able to help them.  If they know somebody that needs a scholarship or needs any kind of academic help, they can come back to us and we are able to do that.  So through the hubs, we’ve given scholarships, we’ve helped other people to get employed, like single mothers, we’ve referred them to jobs.  So people come to the hub and access resource from the hub.”

 

At Life Skills Multipurpose Program, there are different avenues through which residents are able to earn a living.  Kevin Sutherland is one of the founding members.

 

Kevin Sutherland

Kevin Sutherland, Life Skills Multipurpose Program

“One day we get up and said that mih got this yard ya abandoned and we just get a little permission from the owner and he let us use his yard to wash car first, and after when we done use to wash car, we went to a program and Cisco [Woods] on a retreat and from there we tell them that we want to open a little business and they said well, seek some help and we get a little help from through the U.S Embassy who gave us some tools.”

 

Since then, the United States Embassy and the Love Foundation have gone on to establish as many as six hubs across the city.  Aside from community building, vocational training and engagement is high on the agenda.

 

Albert Clother

“The next goal is to have somewhere in the community where the younger guys can come and learn something and feel at home.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“What has that been like in terms of being able to engage these young men to come here and learn a skill.”

 

Albert Clother

“Well actually it’s been a success, you know, because despite whatever happened, everybody still hold dehn straight and we try get di lee works done.  Like todeh, most ah di guys dehn deh out di work pan dis street program and yoh cohn ya pan wahn regular day when no next project di happen and yoh woulda sih all ah di guys dehn ya di engage eena sohn kinda activity noh.  If da noh di fix wahn cycle or even wahn bicycle or deh underneath a di hood a wahn car, yoh woulda sih dehn ya di try learn and di do something noh.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano


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