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May 16, 2022

A Rebranding of the Princess Royal Youth Hostel

It has been criticized for the restrictive and deplorable living conditions under which its residents live. The institution has even previously dealt with allegations of sexual harassment. Then in 2015, a horrific fire swept through one of the buildings, killing three girls who were trapped inside. So, needless to say, the public outcry for an overhauling of the Princess Royal Youth Hostel has been consistent over the years. Now, under a new legal framework governing how the former Princess Royal Youth Hostel is managed, the facility was renamed on Sunday to reflect a place of hope for the youths that subsequently pass through there. News Five’s Marion Ali was present for the official unveiling and filed this report.

 

Marion Ali, Reporting

The renaming of the Princess Royal Youth Hostel as the New Beginnings Youth Development Center serves – as its new name implies – a better stay away from home for the eleven girls and sixteen boys who reside at the facility. The official renaming ceremony was aptly timed to coincide with Sunday’s International Day of Families. The new name originated from right within the facility, in the person of Daveion Dougal, a resident himself, whose family approved our use of this excerpt from his presentation. 

 

 

 

Daveion Dougal

Daveion Dougal, Resident, New Beginnings Youth Development Center

“We cannot allow our negativity to hold us back, but to be the foundation that we build upon to make us better and stronger. Yes, we all make mistakes, but the words “new beginning” bring to light that we are no longer looking into a rear-view mirror but straight ahead.”

 

Looking ahead, the rebranding calls for nurturing, care giving services, and schooling for the youths rather than a boot camp approach to their custodial stay at the institution.

 

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Minister of Human Development

“The first time I came here, the security guard at the gate had big handcuffs hanging from his belt. And I walked up to him and said, “Please hide those handcuffs. This is not a prison.” It is no longer a certified institution which signifies that you’re punishing children for being rude and bad and disorderly and uncontrollable and petty offenses before the law. So we repealed the Certified Institutions Act, and we are now naming, and by law, this facility to be a residential care facility.”

 

In tandem with the new charter, there’s been a whole shift in the development aspect of the youths, according to the institution’s Program Coordinator, Annie Palacio, and that has to do with both vocational and academic development.

 

Annie Palacio

Annie Palacio, Program Coordinator, New Beginnings Youth Development Center

“They told us, “We want to do agriculture; we want to do livestock. We want to learn skills; we want to be entrepreneurs,” and we gave that to them. They grow their own vegetables that we use to cook in the kitchen; we have livestock that they take care of – pigs and chickens. They even have skills training over the other side of the building under the Ministry of Youth, so they learn like cementing – different types of skills training. And they also go to school. They want to go to school, so we get them into school. They were online when COVID was still on. Our children are either online or in-class here. We do have a teacher here that literally teaches them. So they are here getting everything as if they were outside, along with character-building.”

 

A part of the transition over the past twenty months included major investments in infrastructural upgrades as well, the Minister of Human Development, Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, indicated.

 

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

“Within the last year and four months, we did major renovations to the bathrooms to the living area; we made significant changes. We brought in plumbers, electricians, we put in a new pump, we even have hot water now, and the children have flush toilets, they have hot water to bathe, and there have been significant improvements. We even donated a larger television for the children. And the children will mind their TV.”

 

Balderamos-Garcia readily concedes that there is still room for improvement, but she says that is where the effort now lies to help the youths reintegrate back into society. At the heart of that effort is opening halfway houses for the young residents who leave.

 

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

“In Orange Walk, what we try to do is have like a halfway house situation, whereas you’re eighteen, they don’t just put you on the street. We try to follow up the cases, and we have had some very successful interventions and also outcomes. So we haven’t gotten there yet entirely, but we’re trying throughout the country, for the people who transition out, that we will do some follow-up and remember, we don’t necessarily keep them here until the age of eighteen. That’s what we’re trying to get away from. This facility is only for when it is absolutely necessary and for the shortest possible period of time.”

 

Marion Ali for News Five.


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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