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Mar 9, 2023

Belize Central Prison Receives 240 Chrome Books from Port Moody Rotary Club

This afternoon, the Belize Central Prison received two hundred and forty Chrome Books from the Port Moody Rotary Club in British Columbia. It was the final phase of an ongoing educational program that the club helped to set up back in 2018. The program has aided hundreds of inmates who have passed through the doors of the facility to enhance their educational capacity, giving them a better chance to become self-employed upon re-entry into society. News Five’s Marion Ali was on hand for the handing over and filed this report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

Today, the inmates at the Belize Central Prison became beneficiaries of a sizeable donation. They received two hundred and forty Chrome Books that are being used as part of the facility’s educational program.


Avil Steadman

Avil Steadman, Director, Education & Rehab., Belize Central Prison

“The Chrome Books have educational material on it and we have four or five different levels on it. We have the phonics and the literacy level, then we have the beginners which is the equivalent from standard one to standard three. We have the intermediate, which would be like standard four to standard six and we have the advanced level, which would equal to a first or second form student and then we have vocational.”


The Chrome Books are from the Port Moody Rotary Club in British Columbia, represented by Allan Stjernegaard. They have been assisting the people of different walks of life in Belize for several years now. But some years ago, they decided on helping the prisoners with education and today’s donation marked the completion of that project.


Allan Stjernegaard

Allan Stjernegaard, Representative, Port Moody Rotary Club, British Colombia

“I met Cisco Woods, who is a local Rotarian and we started discussing the larger problems in Belize and we talked about literacy, education and gangsters – the need to break the cycle of poverty and crime and we started talking that maybe the prison would be a good place to start with the literacy program, so we went away and did some research and we came up with the RACHEL program, which is published by World Possible, so we collaborated with that, got back to Belize and did a test run and then we did the big roll-out you see here.”


Avil Steadman

“Whatever subject they do, the RACHEL system – we have a system within named Polibri. It records whichever site they’re on, they do tests, quizzes are recorded. Everything is recorded and monitored. They also have quizzes for each level of or phases that they do and it’s also recorded.”


The RACHEL program is used extensively in prisons around the world and Stjernegaard says that their rotary club is of the belief that teaching people to read enables them to develop skills that can help them in life. Demas Mendez and Marlon Young shared that the educational program has helped them develop their reading skills immensely.


Marlon Young

Marlon Young, Inmate, Belize Central Prison

“I mi couldn’t read none at all. I neva know the sound ah the A, B,C. I neva know the sound ah the letters, nothing. Ah mi couldn’t read none at all, nuh even spell mi name. When ah does work ah does change mi check but ah use to put wa x pahn the check and that does mek ah feel wa kinda way. But due to this opportunity weh Kolbe Foundation give us fi learn fi read and be someone, ih ker mi pahn wa different level fi understand life, fi be somebody – succeed eena life.”


Demas Mendez

Demas Mendez, Inmate, Belize Central Prison

“I didn’t know about computers, so right now it’s a lot better for us because in society we didn’t know about it, so I came to the prison and learn a lot. I’m in the class of phonics to learn to read and write a little more cause when I was out there I didn’t love school.”


The inmates engage in literacy at different stages. Some who have never or hardly attended school in their childhood are just learning to read. Patrick Robateau, a fellow inmate, is the program’s facilitator at the remand section.


Patrick Robateau

Patrick Robateau, Inmate, Belize Central Prison

“They have a lot of different programs on there that we didn’t see here before. And for me being here for over twenty-one years, I have seen the drastic change in education on a whole. So it is a far way step up now than it was back then. The guys them – some of them dropped out of school, so individually, each person has a headphone, each person has their own laptop so they learn at their own pace and own time.”


Altogether, the Chrome Books are valued at eighty-seven thousand U.S. dollars, but the value of the gift goes far beyond the dollar figure. And the success rate is measured by the inmates’ completing their time behind bars, according to Avil Steadman, the prison’s Director of Education and Rehabilitation.


Avil Steadman

“Education is key because education helps them to change their mindset the way they look at themselves, also boost their self esteem to say you know what, I can learn, I can be a better person and by giving them education it takes them to that level where it helps reduce the crime.”


Marlon Young

“Now I could spell mi name. My name da M-A-R-L-O-N. Marlon.”


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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