BELIZE CITY, Belize. Wed. Sept. 1, 2021– This week the Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Kareem Musa, and the Minister of Youth, Hon. Kevin Bernard, hosted an intervention exercise in conjunction with the Department of Youth Services (DYS) during which attempts were made to reach out to known gang affiliates and to introduce alternatives to crime.
Hon. Bernard told local reporters that his Ministry and the Department of Youth Services see the need to introduce developmental initiatives in an attempt to help these young members of society to change their perspectives on life.
“What we have come to do today is to reach out to these young men, not only here; it is going to happen out in the community as well. That is one of the things that the Department of Youth Service, through the support from UNHCR and UNICEF, in terms of using cure violence method, going out into the community, talk to these people, talk to the families, to the parents, to the business community and see how we can turn this thing around. I think it critical that we come, as the Minister in charge of Youth, the Department of Youth Service, the Director said they wanted to come in and offer these guys a two-week workshop training while these guys are here under the SOE, to hear from them,” he explained.
Hon. Bernard said that one-on-one discussions will be held with those being held during the State of Emergency (SOE), and those discussions will take place during behavior modification and conflict management sessions as well as health and wellness and counseling initiatives that will be orchestrated by the DYS. During the day’s proceedings Minister Bernard had an opportunity to interact with the youths, who he believes want a way out but are stuck in a cycle of violence.
“I’m hoping that this step of making sure we reach out to them is just the beginning of the process. What we are saying to all our Belizean youth – our at-risk youth, especially the ones seeking a better opportunity, let them put down the guns. Let them show society that they want a difference in life. The Minister of Home Affairs made a point very important, that those that are thirty-five years and up already realize, you know what, this is not life for me. I want to get out. But they’re so deep in this type of behavior that it’s difficult for them. So, we need talk to not only them but the younger youth. We have a lot of young people at the Wagner’s Facility, I’m told, that are also affected by this type of behavior. And so we’re hoping that these intervention methods can work. But we’re saying to them, that through the on-the-job skills training program that we’ll be putting forward, the youth apprenticeship program, that they can be given an opportunity. Come and learn a trade. Turn your life around and become a productive citizen in this country. That’s the hope of our department and our ministry,” he said.
As mentioned in the Minister’s remarks, the Department of Youth Services has committed the next two weeks to providing various skill training and counseling sessions to engage the youths being targeted by the ongoing SOE.