Hon. Mark King in Panama for better youth programs Print E-mail
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Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00

On Tuesday, November 12, 2013 the CAPS project undertook a Technical Exchange Tour to Panama which was funded through the IDB. The primary goal of the Technical Exchange is the transfer of knowledge and technology for the development, validation, and dissemination of techniques and models for the management of Crime and the implementation of the Community Intervention Strategies. The operation facilitates such transfer of knowledge and practice via experiential observations of the techniques employed in the host community and the visiting technicians. The technical exchange tour also fosters an enabling environment for dialogue between and among the personnel from these countries.

The tour was from 12th – 16th November 2013 and comprised of the Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Mark King, Director of Community Rehabilitation Department – Ms. Starla Acosta, Director of Youth Services, Ms. Jewel Crawford, Director of Education Services – Dr. Candy Armstrong, Procurement Specialist (CAPS) – Ms. Stephanie Pouchie and Project Coordinator (CAPS) – Mr. Elvis Requena.

Upon arrival the team was met by Ms. Beira Guerrero from the Office of Integral Security of the Ministry of Public Safety. She arranged the agenda and accompanied them on most of the activities.

The exchange was very useful in providing insight on the requirements, both financial and human, for successful implementation of the programs. The visit included a tour of a facility (Compliance Center) much like the Youth Hostel in the province of Las Garzas de Pacora. It is quite a big investment (US$20,000,000.00). While Belize may not be able to leverage this type of funding currently, the programs instituted at the center can be replicated in our facilities to a lesser extent. This youth center utilizes a mix of physical, educational and psychological methodologies to achieve the desired behaviour modification results for the institutionalized youths. The end result being the successful reintegration of these youths into society.

In addition the delegation had the opportunity to visit a neighbourhood called Curundu, which was much like a south side neighbourhood of Belize City. The neighbourhood was plagued with crime, violence and poverty. The government of Panama decided to demolish the dilapidated dwellings that were in the area and “clean up” the drug dealings in the area. They invested in the construction of streets and new apartment buildings for the people in the area while providing education and job opportunities for those residents. Since then crime has dropped significantly in that particular neighbourhood. It is noteworthy to mention that the Minister was impressed with this particular initiative.

The delegation also met with other technical personnel to discuss the challenges faced in the implementation of these programs as well as their successes. Other activities while in Panama inlcuded an invitation to some cultural events as well as a meeting with the Minister of Public Safety, Hon. Jose Raul Mulino.

The highlight of the exchange was the final activity which was the closure of a program in one of the schools in the province of Las Garzas de Pacora. The Minister was asked to speak to the gathering briefly and thereafter to hand out the medals and trophies to the teams that participated in a football competition organized during the year to keep the school children occupied during the weekends.

Overall, the Technical Exchange was very informative and useful for the delegation to have gotten first-hand information on the intricacies of the implementation of the programs and their challenges.