RESTORE Belize on the Metamorphosis Programme Print E-mail
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Thursday, 26 April 2018 00:00

Crime in Belize remains a prevalent issue and as such it was rightfully pointed out by representatives of RESTORE Belize. It cannot be treated as any singular problem. According to the 2013 Global Study on Homicide reports, Belize’s homicide rate was at a whopping 44.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. Most of the persons affected by these homicides are young males residing on the Southside of Belize City. In an effort to foster resiliency and to provide adults (over 24 years) with the knowledge and skills to be effective parents, the Metamorphosis Project made its way to Belize.

“In an effort to foster citizenship security in Belize City, the Metamorphosis Programme, funded by UNICEF, was piloted for two years, July 2012 to July 2014, with young males between ages 11-14. RESTORE Belize consulted with schools and partner agencies in the Yabra Safe Zone area to identify children who had been placed at risk of dropping out of school or engaging in anti-social behavior due to their high exposure to violence… Once children are selected for the Metamorphosis Programme, they engage in counseling, social worker visits, weekend life skills retreats, literacy programs, conflict mediation, family dialogues, parenting sessions, and tutoring.” RESTORE Belize.

The project is now at its third cohort with 36 boys from Queen Street Baptist Primary School. At the Best Western Biltmore Hotel on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, as a sort of Round Table discussion, counselors and project coordinators divulged more specific details of the project as well as its successes and its intended destination.

Marydelene Vasquez, Director, RESTORE Belize, explained their use of the Ecological Approach, the theory that the environment is a collection of natural factors (physical, chemical, and biological) capable of affecting living organisms. The harsh human ecology of Belize City is fertile grounds for the molding of male children into violent gang soldiers. Tina Cuellar, Program Director, Project Heal, gave a concise explanation of the phenomenon known as complex trauma and its effect on the brain, specifically the amygdala. Children that suffer traumatic experiences often times act above or below the window of tolerance and that is portrayed in their acting out (one end of the spectrum) or their reclusive demeanors (another end). Jennifer Lovell, who acts in the capacity of a Mental Health Therapist for this program, pinpointed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. Unfortunately for many young men living on Southside Belize City, their basic needs are being neglected which then in turn affects their academic performance, parental and peer relationships, among other things.

Given these realities, an effective program requires coordinated inputs from counselors, social workers, schools, government and non-government service providers, and donor agencies. Stephanie Gillett Jimenez, Social Worker, RESTORE Belize, gave her personal accounts of what it required to work with some of the young men that live these realities. She reiterated the point that seeing any result demands a comprehensive effort and a dedicated team of trained personnel. Jimenez contends to have been personally impacted by the young men she interacted with and was grateful to be welcomed into their lives and homes. Although one person cannot be expected to change the entire country, it starts by changing one person.

Following the completed interventions, the program is still a far way from finished. The next step of the program is to adopt a whole school approach. “This includes early interventions starting in lower primary school, training for teachers to deal specifically with armed violence, and placing an emphasis on literacy as a national priority.” RESTORE Belize.