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Feb 15, 2008

Wanted: Mentors for at risk youth

Story PictureWhen politicians talk about crime they invariably point to the need to get tough on the criminals while at the same time enacting programmes to encourage young people to stay out of trouble. Today News Five’s Kendra Griffith spent time with some people on the front lines of that effort.

Glendamae Martinez, Chief Supervisor, Youth Hostel
“Presently our crime rate is high, who is doing the crime? Our youths.”

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
Nine murders in six days provided nine more reasons for the Belize Youth Hostel and the Community Rehabilitation Department to launch their mentorship programme. Glendamae Martinez is the Chief Supervisor at the Hostel.

Glendamae Martinez
“Many times our youths feel like they are alone. And what do they do? They join gangs. When they get in gangs they feel belong because that is what the gang leaders they do. They ensure that the youth they feel good about themselves. They would buy new clothes for them, new tennis, a phone, and they would be trapped.”

France Westby, Community Rehabilitation Officer, Cayo
“We have a lot of young people growing up in single parent homes, there is no guidance, there is no fathership, there’s no mother—the mother’s presence in the home is very limited at times because she has to work and fend for the family, especially young men, they look forward to guidance and that support, that help to teach them not only discipline, but love, to teach them what it is to be a young man.”

That lack of guidance results in youths coming in conflict with the law and eventually in contact with the C.R.D., which works with first-time offenders and at-risk youths.

France Westby
“We wouldn’t want to say juvenile delinquents because that would be stereotyping, but we work along with young people, juveniles before they get in trouble with the law. We work along with them as they get into the courts, basically we do recommendations for the court.”

Sometimes the court recommends that the teen is sent to the Youth Hostel on the Western Highway.

Glendamae Martinez
“The Youth Hostel is a residential facility for children who come in contact with the law between the ages of twelve to seventeen. The children that are sent to the Youth Hostel, some of them come for uncontrollable behaviour, meaning that they don’t go to school, they hang out with questionable characters who does negative things. We have residents that come there for drug trafficking, some that come there for burglary, harm etcetera.”

France Westby
“My mother told me, a child was not born a criminal, never.”

France Westby is a Community Rehabilitation Officer working out of the Cayo District. He says he’s living proof that if given a chance and proper guidance, these so-called delinquents can become productive members of the community.

France Westby
“I grew up in an abusive home, I am not afraid to say that. I have lived that past and that caused me to behave in some delinquent manner where I ran away, I slept out. Nobody ever took the time and spoke to me when the police saw me they wanted to lash me, my father wanted to lash me, my mother worried about me. I have an extra understanding for these kids that if given that break they will change. But if you give that child a break, and I was given that break, I was given the proper treatment and see, here I am today. So hence the reason I am a proven fact that that’s a possibility.”

The C.R.D. and the Youth Hostel believe that teaming up at-risk youths with positive role models/mentors could be the break the adolescents need and they are urging the community to get involved.

Glendamae Martinez
“We want mentors who will be able to guide our youths in the right direction. We want people who will be able to sit with our youths for maybe an hour or so on a weekly basis, find out what are some of their issues that they are facing and try to guide them in a positive direction so at the end of the day they will be able to help themselves in a more efficient and effective manner.”

France Westby
“If you only open your home and your heart to a young person, they will change, because all you are doing is giving them a reason to change and that reason is love. That reason is giving, that reason is caring, become a good ambassador for Belize, a future, a positive person that’s the reason.”

Both male and female mentors age sixteen and up from all parts of the country are welcomed. Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

Application forms and information on the mentorship programme can be requested by sending an email to Further details are available from the Youth Hostel at 209-6116 or the Community Rehabilitation Department at 223-2716.

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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